Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tough Love is Hard

None of my friends are answering their phones, so I turn to my blog hoping to assuage my guilt, my mother guilt.
This morning, as most mornings, quite a bit of complaining and yelling happens at my house as we get ready to go out the door. And that's just me. I used to say that the best part about homeschooling was not having to be anywhere first thing in the morning. I still believe that's true.
So, we're almost at the end of the year and this issue has been building up for awhile. Spencer stays up late working on homework or watching the NBA playoffs and he is difficult to wake up. He usually needs a couple of wake up calls. Sometimes I'll wake him up, go feed the cats, come back again. He always says, "Just a sec."
And my response frequently is, "we don't have a sec."
When he's being especially manipulative, he'll say "Why don't you lie down here with me just for a minute?" I know, at 15, he isn't that interested in snuggling with his mom. He just wants more sleep.
This morning I was still yelling to his room at 7:15. "Spencer, are you up?" I'd get a moan. Finally, I watched until he trudged from his room to the bathroom. Much nudging and yelling followed as I tried to get him to move along. I warned Grace that we might be leaving late at the rate things were going. I promised her we'd leave at 7:50. The first bell rings at 7:55 and the late bell is 8.
And, for those of you who know that we live seven-tenths of a mile from school, Grace is still in a walking boot because of the tendonitis in her ankle. So I told the boys we were leaving at 7:50. I gave warnings at 4 minutes and 2 minutes. Spencer was spreading butter on his second English muffin when I picked up my purse and walked out the door. The other kids were already in the car.
As I put the car in reverse and pulled out of the garage, I expected to see Spencer with his backpack dangling from an arm come running through the back door. I watched the garage door close and paused in the alley, looking at the door. Nothing.
I drove to school, dropping Tucker at the middle school. Next Grace clomped off into the doors of the high school.
Should I go back and get him? No. I should let him ride his bike to school and be tardy. I forced myself to go get a coffee at Caribou Coffee. Then I became worried that Spence might be clueless enough not to notice we were gone and just hang out at home, wondering why no one was leaving for school. I called home and woke up my husband. He called out a few times. Noted that Spencer's lunch was still on the counter and said he must be gone.
As I left Caribou, I drove down the main street and saw Spencer there walking at 8:05.He leaned slightly forward with the weight of his heavy backpack. He was nearly to school.
I raised a hand. He saw me and returned the raised hand. Not a waving hand, just an acknowledgement.
Maybe he'll get a lunch detention for being late to school, or maybe he hasn't been tardy this quarter and he'll breeze through the rest of the school year without another tardy. I'm sure he has put it behind him as he nears second period.
I still feel a gnawing of guilt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Body Image

Let's face it. Most American women have poor body image, and, although I like to consider myself above that, as I've gotten older, I've been struggling with it.
Going to dance class this spring has reinforced the fact that I am no longer the slightly chubby, but healthy woman who can ignore her weight. I hate even walking in the door. My reflection in the doorway of Dance Plus Ballroom is bigger than my reflection in any other doorway -- my house, Macy's, work. I look huge as I walk toward the door.
Once inside, the room is lined with mirrors. The first week I wore a casual outfit and was shocked to see how bad it looked on me. I was obese! I've worn each of my favorite outfits only to vow I'd never wear each again after seeing myself in those mirrors. I convinced myself the mirrors must be distorting my image so this week, I managed to stand next to another woman. I compared how she looked in real life to how she looked in the mirror. She wasn't distorted. She looked the same both places. So what's going on?

Maybe my body image is the opposite of what most women have. Maybe I haven't dealt with the way I really look. In high school, I thought I was fat. I remember the counselor/driving teacher Mr. Vandergriff who frequently told me that Paulita was supposed to mean little Paul. I distinctly remember myself in size 5 skirts. When I forgot a pair of jeans to change into after band, someone suggested that Tracey had an extra pair. "I'll never fit into her jeans," I insisted. But I did and we've been friends since.
I did gain weight and bulk up in college. I can still picture myself in the bright green tights and leotard I wore to do Jane Fonda aerobics -- the album. My weight slid up and down after that. One of the first things I understood in French was when a member of the family I was staying with was talking about me. Someone said I must enjoy the French food because I was heavy. The host family assured them I had arrived that way. No wonder I saw myself as fat.
The problem was in my mid-20s, when I stopped thinking about food and weight, and my scale settled on 118, where it returned after each baby, I still considered myself fat. I was wearing size 4 or size 6 jeans but thought I was chubby. What is that all about? Why couldn't I enjoy being thin? Why did I still need to be critical?
Raising a daughter, I always focused on being healthy. We didn't talk about dieting, but I regularly hit the running trail, as much for the emotional reward as the physical one. Over the past few years, injuries like the torn ACL and the stress fracture have prevented me from running as much. That must be when those extra pounds snuck on. And now they act like a vicious cycle, making me tired when I do run. No wonder, I'm dragging around the equivalent of a five-year-old in addition to the weight I was before. I complain of feeling fatigue. My lungs are fine, my leg muscles are fine, but a sense of "I can't possibly run anymore" overtakes me. I'm fighting that feeling now as I slog through my morning runs. Some of them are beautiful and some of them are like wrestling a two-year-old into a car seat.
So, I need to face the mirror and admit I have gained weight. I need to get out of bed every morning and run. I'm trying to follow the marathon training schedule, even though I don't plan to run the marathon. The training should help me get my body under control.

And, I need to admit that dieting only makes me crazy and crave foods. So I have to allow myself to eat what I want in moderation and increase my exercise. I tried to buy larger shorts that will be more comfortable but I still run into the difficulty of shorts that fit in the thighs and hips but are too big around the waist.
I'll keep looking and hope that soon the size 10s will be comfortable again. My goal, and everyone should have one, is to be a comfortable size 8 by the time the Columbus Marathon rolls around. I plan to stand on the sidelines and cheer for my friends while showing off some newly muscled thighs. Now about those varicose veins. Oh, never mind. No one is perfect.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tolerance and other dangers in Kentucky

I drove to Lexington on Thursday morning, leaving the house before anyone else was awake, so I could be at the hospital when my 91-year-old grandmother had her pacemaker batteries replaced. Nana is a slip of a thing now with pale blue eyes and see-through skin. I saw her briefly before she went into the procedure and then spent an hour talking with my 70-year-old aunt. It took only a fraction of that hour for me to remember how much I hate the fact that everything in their lives revolves around God.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a church-going Catholic (okay, I missed the ascension service Thursday, but overall). This is a different kind of obsession with God. Every conversation about any person requires a discussion about this person's religious background and how they had or hadn't been saved, what age they'd been saved, whether they had backslid...
My aunt started one conversation with the fact that she really approved of homeschooling. I homeschooled my kids until last year. For me though, it was about the learning rather than the avoidance of other people's ideas.
"In schools today," my aunt dropped her voice and leaned forward, "they're teaching tolerance!"
I couldn't hold in the little burble of laughter, which probably sounded something like, "hah!"
"My kids hopefully learned as much tolerance from me at home as they would in school," I said.
"But have you heard about that new hate law? Soon it's going to be legal to beat up Christians."
I hadn't followed the law, but I didn't think that was the direction it was going.
"I think it's going to be an extra crime to hurt people because of their beliefs," I tried to explain.
"But it will be illegal for Christians to even speak out."
"No, no. I'm pretty sure it won't affect freedom of speech," I said, while I tried desperately to steer the conversation away to safer topics, like vegetables.

The rest of the afternoon was just a walk through minefields while I tried to say the right things without getting dragged into criticisms of my cousin (too fat), my former sister-in-law (never signed love on the cards until after the divorce), my own parents (too busy with their own lives to help take care of their mother). I'm lucky I was there to avoid the criticism that would have come my way.
So I skipped out early, claiming the three-hour drive made my departure a necessity. As I approached Cincinnati, I called my best friend from high school. She met me at a Panera not too far from the highway and I spewed all of my impatience with my relatives in a three-hour catch up session. Thank God for friends. But when was the last time she went to church? I'll need to check before I visit my relatives in Kentucky again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Benadryl & Sudafed & Crutches, Oh my

My friend Angela thinks she really wants a baby. I try to update her on life with my kids as birth control incentive.
Yesterday, two of my kids were at the doctors. One with an indeterminate rash and the other with mystery pains in her ankle. My husband took Tuck to the doctor because I was working. Contact dermatitis, like poison ivy. Look, it's not poison ivy. I am a pro at recognizing the blisters once they're on the skin. I just can't recognize the plant to stay out of it.
Tuck has these big red welts on the back of his neck and the underside of his arms. But I wasn't there to argue, so he got a cortizone cream prescription and a quart of Haagen Dazs ice cream. He also is taking Benadryl (store brand!) and it upset his stomach, so the pharmacist suggested ginger ale and crackers before he takes it.This rash is paying big sugar dividends.
Grace had been on two Aleve each morning and night for the pain in her shin/ankle. The sports med doctor at Children's Hospital put her in a knee-high boot and told her to stay off it. Not stay off it like using the crutches to get to the pool and then swimming, but stay off it. I don't say it, but am I thinking what about the personal training, what about the week at the University of Louisville Swim Camp? Yes. What will happen to this summer's swim season. Maybe a nice division three college will suit her just fine.
Then last night that little nagging cough of Grace's turned into a full-blown head cold. She was up blowing her nose and coughing. I took her some Sudafed (store brand!). When I got back from my run she was already up and in the shower getting ready for school.
Are you going? I asked.
"I've got a choir concert tonight and if I don't go they won't let me sing."
If she doesn't sing, her grade drops.
"Go back to bed for awhile. I'm taking Spencer in later," I told her.
And Spencer, well he got up in his Ohio State sleep pants, ate a bowl of cereal and a cereal bar and settled into the armchair to finish an essay he should have written last night.
Even when they can feed and dress themselves, they continue to be full time jobs. Most of the time I enjoy their company, but the times that I don't (obnoxious 13-year-old) there's no escaping.
You sure you want kids, Angela?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Model Child

Since my friend Sheila, who apparently never plans to blog again, has not written about the excitement in her family, I'm co-opting her story. Maybe this will convince her to tell the story in her own words.
Her 16-year-old daughter is about six-feet tall, all arms and legs and swingy caramel-colored hair. She was on a school trip, in an airport in Colorado when a woman approached her and asked who her teacher was. The woman left a business card with the teacher and requested that it go to the girl's parents. She represented a modeling agency! I know! Every girl's dream is to be discovered in some out of the way place by a modeling agency who wants to make her a star. And apparently, this may be happening to Sheila's daughter.
Since Sheila was out of town at the time, the teacher gave the card to her husband, who considered throwing it away. But he didn't! He looked up the agency on the web, he called and talked to the owner.
Next week, they are going to a large midwestern city for a photo shoot.
Oh, I hope Sheila wants me to serve as her translator when they go to Paris for fashion week!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Footprints

After my tough day with my teenagers (see previous post), I was on the lookout for some magic to repair our relationship. That magic came in the form of an email from the moms' list -- a group of mothers in our small town who send out tips and events, and ask for help when they need it. This email said the elephant walk would be that afternoon.
When the circus comes to town, the train parks in our small town then the elephants and horses walk along the road over the highway to the stadium where they camp during the performance.
My husband and I stopped by the convenience store and bought Yoohoos for the kids. I went to the middle school; he went to the high school to take kids out.
"Will they want to go?" we had wondered beforehand.
Maybe not the youngest, we thought. He is still close enough to the age to worry that it is a little kid thing. The others are past that. .
Sure enough, after I took Tucker out of class, he asked where we were going and begged off. "We're watching Remember the Titans in class." Aaah. My education dollars at work. I shrugged. He didn't realize how much we needed family time.
The other kids jumped in the car as if they'd just achieved a jail break.
They popped open their Yoohoos as we drove down to the circus road. We parked and I saw an aquaintance pushing a stroller along the street.
"Will we be able to see the elephants from here?" I called
"They went almost an hour early," she replied. "We missed them too."
Earl, not one to be outsmarted by elephants, drove over to the stadium. We fled the car like circus clowns and milled around the fence, admiring the elephants who were bathing after their hot walk.
"We're the only older kids here," my son pointed out as little heads bonked into his knees.
We watched the elephants and meandered past the cages with the tigers, most of them sleeping. Hmmm. Wonder why they didn't get to walk?
We spotted some miniature ponies and a sleek palamino. The sound of a roar made us jump and then we debated whether it was one of the cats or the elephants. If we lived a little closer, maybe we could the roars and squeals through our windows at night while we sleep, dreaming of life on the African plain.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just Keep Running

This morning I walked into the 40-degree weather wearing running shorts and a jacket. When I got from the back door to the alley, I started to run. I kept running until I felt sure I could come home and love my kids. That was it. My goal that I kept repeating in my head: Run until you love your kids.
I went to bed angry last night. I had yelled at the kids and smacked my hand against the black granite countertop. I don't yell often, so when I do the kids get a kind of stunned look on their faces.
I guess it was building up and I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that I received a couple of "Happy Mother's Day" comments from the kids, one about 5 p.m. when the 13-year-old called from a friend's house after he remembered it was mother's day, and a very sweet card from my husband. I have long since abandoned Mother's Day as a holiday.
But on Monday, after I came home from working and had a headache behind my eyes, I drove my middle child to tennis and sat in the sun reading a book and waiting to watch him play. He hasn't played tennis before so he had about one good shot for every 25 bad ones, but everybody starts somewhere. He was, of course, mad at himself about his awkward tennis abilities and when I dropped him to pick up the youngest, he apologized. "Sorry."
Sorry? About tennis? Come on. That's not important.
The 13-year-old climbed in the car with his guitar and I dropped him at his lesson. I ran home, defrosted the hamburgers and threw them on the grill.

My daughter, her bedroom door closed with music escaping beneath, was supposed to be going to work out with her personal trainer. This is her first month working with a personal trainer and it's kind of an experiment to see if she can build up enough muscle to swim with a division 1 college when she graduates next year. And, for our family, it's a pretty big financial commitment. I don't want to throw that in her face, but I do expect her to take it seriously.
So, when she was still in her room at 6:21 and she needed to be working out at the gym at 6:30, I nudged her along. "Why can't you get there on time? You're supposed to stretch before you start working out."
"I got this," she assured me.
When I returned with the 13-year-old, who was pestering me to sign his volunteer-hour sheet because he hadn't gotten it signed when he worked at the YMCA, I served dinner to the boys. The 13-year-old is just sullen and complaining most of the time. He answers me in grunts unless he is arguing to get his way with something.
The 15-year-old was reading. I know that's a good thing, but he had homework. He finally started it and took breaks to watch Dancing With the Stars before I realized, at 9 p.m. that he was filling out his government review sheet, which meant he had a test today. He wasn't anywhere near ready to study for the test. My daughter was working on a paper that was due today and had probably spent the afternoon on Facebook rather than working on it.
"Why are you so mad?" My son asked innocently. That's when I slapped the counter and said I was tired of him doing his school work "half-assed."
"You wanted to go to school. You're responsible for getting the work done and getting good grades."
His interim report this quarter was the lowest it has ever been with a C in one class. If he's trying, that's one thing, but if he's reading and playing video games and gets started on his homework at 9, that's another.
Then I turned on my daughter. "And it's ridiculous to think you can go to workouts late every week and then convince us to pay for swim camp."
I finished unloading the dishwasher in silence and cleared off the table where my daughter had eaten after she got home. I got ready for bed and closed the door behind me. No good night to the boys or Grace. No kiss on the cheek with an "I love you."
I know they aren't doing drugs or having sex or stealing from the local drugstore. They're basically good kids, just not stepping up to the plate without constant nagging.
When Grace printed out her paper, she came in and kissed me goodnight. And that was it.
Until this morning when I woke up, did my usual debate about whether to go for a run. That same headache was pulsing behind my eyes. I wondered if it could be high blood pressure. Maybe I'd run out onto the street and collapse. But I put on my shoes and plugged in my iPod and started to run. That's when the idea hit me, just keep running, until you can go home and love your kids again.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Prom Expenses

I saw a cartoon in the newspaper this morning that had a woman peering in a baby carriage then asking the parents if they've started saving for her prom yet. It reminded me how fortunate I am that I have a daughter who seems to have been born with a budget planner in her head.
Her prom was last week and the $80 dress was the biggest expense. It was on sale 25 percent off.
The boutonniere for her date was $12 from the local florist.
The night before the prom she and her girlfriends got together and soaked their feet in the tub, giving each other pedicures and manicures.
We splurged on an updo -- first time she's ever done that, but again that wasn't unreasonable at $45 from the girl who usually cuts her hair.

What are you guys going to do about dinner? I had asked, fearing an expensive restaurant.
"We're having a pot luck at Angela's," she told me.
"What about cars?" Again I pictured rented limousines.
"Oh, I think Robert, Kyle and Rosa are all driving."
So that was it.
A dress, a flower and a boutonniere. She came home an exhausted girl who had scattered glitter everywhere. But I thought she looked beautiful.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring Musings

This morning when I got up, I had a Weatherbug alert. Weatherbug is a tiny lady bug that sits at the bottom right of my screen and tells me the temperature all day, unless there's a weather alert. Then she chirps and flits her wings. Last week I was working at the computer when a tornado warning kicked in. The chirp nearly made me jump out of my chair.
This morning's warning was a fog alert until 9 a.m.
Perfect, I thought. I won't be able to run this morning. I'm not sure why I didn't want to run, but apparently I was looking for an excuse. I put in some laundry and read some blogs then walked to the front door for the newspaper and this is what I saw.
I'm not sure if you can tell how eerie, yet welcoming the fog seemed from my front porch. But here's a picture of my normal front porch view to compare with the downtown skyline in the background.

So I got dressed, snapped my iPod onto my shorts and went into the fog. This was my fourth run this week, if you count Sunday when I showed up 45 minutes late to meet my friends.
The fog added some mystery to my normal run. I saw a truck with its fog lights on and thought I should wake up Earl so he could try the fog lights on our new car. But I could see and be seen fairly well, just not the end of the road. Who knew what would be there.
And after my run and ushering the kids out the door to get to school, I took some pictures of what is blooming in mid-Ohio.

I thought the tulips were nearly finished, but this one is closed up tight. Do they do that every night? Love the gorgeous striping.

These gorgeous irises weren't open on Saturday when I was looking for a scenic background for prom photos. They come originally from my Mom and Dad's blueberry farm in Kentucky. They've traveled with us to each move from Michigan to three houses in Columbus.
And speaking of blueberries, Earl planted two bushes this year and had to sprinkle some soil fixer because our soil is too much like clay and lacks acid.

Sure they're small, but they look much better than the raspberry brambles.

How can this stick make delicious raspberries?
A special thanks to Ken for informing me how to add multiple pictures to my blog post. Next thing you know, I'll be able to put borders around the photos and add background colors. Here's Ken's blog:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I had this epiphany last week and it's been rumbling around in my brain. I've told it to a few friends and they usually laugh at me, but, here it is:
In order to be a writer, I need to actually write.
Seems obvious doesn't it, but I seem to spend very little time writing,either working on my current novel or revising the previous one or sending letters to agents. Am I finished? I've written two novels. Neither have been published yet. So is that it for me?
I have started spending more time talking about writing. I meet with my friend Lilli every two weeks. We were looking at my new novel, but it's hard to pick apart something that isn't fully formed yet, like pulling out the stitches on knitting and starting over again and again. Last night I gave her the prologue and first chapter of Trail Mix. She's great at seeing big themes and said some nice things about the questions women have after raising their families, like "was it worth it?" and "was it enough?"
Maybe we're the first generation of women to think about it because we were the first to have the choice -- stay home with the kids or full-time career. Some of us tried to compromise and do both.
Another writing group at the community college had promise. My former critique partner, Marcus, and I scraped together four people. I wasn't at the first meeting on Thursday but Marcus emailed that the group has been officially disbanded after one meeting. He and I will probably continue to meet and make each other miserable with our incredibly picky details, but I think we make each other's stories better.
I told my husband yesterday that I have to start writing. That may mean I leave the house with my handy laptop, something I haven't really done since the kids started school nearly two years ago. But now that my husband is home all day and always eager to go for a walk or have some coffee or go out for lunch, I seem to be accomplishing much less -- both with grading papers and writing.
This morning, 500 words before the kids wake up, I drop them at school and I rush to campus.
So, from now on, more writing, less lolling around.
I mean it this time.

Friday, May 01, 2009


I know that smoking is not healthy, but when I was searching for a photo of Obama and found this one, I just thought, "Wow, he is so sexy!" And, I wanted to share it with you.
Maybe it's the cigarette. Maybe it's the way he looks kind of tired and vulnerable.
Whatever it is, enjoy!

Hypocritical Catholics

I received a forwarded email this morning from a "friend" at church, praising the decision of Catholics who are protesting President Obama's visit to Notre Dame University because he supports abortion rights. That burns me up!
Where were they when George Bush started an illegal war or was instructing our military and spy agencies to torture people? Are they thinking Jesus would have been good with that?
So, I responded to her email. I think I get some points for output control because I didn't reply all. I replied and included the emails of my friends she had sent the letter to.
I told her I was glad that Grace isn't considering Notre Dame because I think the decision to protest is pathetic. I said Catholics need to support a president who is actually thinking about the needs of the poor, the elderly and the ill who don't have health insurance.
Maybe some would consider me a bad Catholic. I don't follow the rules to the letter. That whole idea about having as many children as God gives you -- no thanks. God gave me the intelligence to know when I had reached my threshhold. And, although I love two out of three of the priests at our church, I think a woman could easily do their job. I think priests should be able to marry and I think the Catholic church cheapened Mary's sacrifice by declaring she was born without sin. In spite of all of these differences of opinion, my kids are baptized Catholic, we show up to Mass most Sundays, and I've spent whole months of my life training for and teaching religious education.
No religion is perfect. The only one I could find to be a perfect match would be called Paulita-ism, and it would definitely be a church of one. So, I'll take the good with the bad. I'll enjoy the wisdom I hear from the priests I admire, and I'll try to remember that if I live the way Jesus taught, the world will be a better place.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...