Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Being Green Isn't Green

How green can your grass grow?

This isn't a philosophical question, it's a literal one. Truly, how green does a person's lawn need to be before you stop watering it, fertilizing it and so forth and say to yourself, "Yep, that looks green to me."

The reason I ask is because this morning I parked my car next to a beautifully manicured home near Lake Harriet for my morning skate around the lakes. It was 5:30 am. As I was sitting on the curb next to my car putting my gear on, a sudden burst of water from behind me let me know that the homeowner's sprinkler system had just went on. I hurriedly got up and closed the windows on the car, assuming that some of the sprinklers were going to water my car. They did.

Now, this is NOT the home I was in front of, but it is pretty darn close in terms of landscaping:

Looks pretty perfect to me! Keep in mind that just two nights ago we had quite a soaking, over an inch of rain fell to round out what's been a pretty wet July.

And you are paying to water this because...?

My beef is not with the money, though. Clearly the person who owns this house can afford to pay for gallons and gallons of water. But from a conservation standpoint, he shouldn't. I know, it's not possible to ship the abundancy of water from our country to others that are sorely lacking, or even get it from one area of our country to another that has a water deficit. We've got the water, just use it. But somehow that seems wrong.

This seems even more frivolous because I just can't imagine how more watering is going to benefit his lawn even further.

At the end of the day, how green is your grass?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer....And the Guilt is Heavy....

I know, that's not how the song goes.

The livin' should be easy, but as a working mom, guilt is often at an all-time high.

Especially working moms who remember their childhood summers as children of non-working moms. Those carefree days, the hours spent in pursuit of...nothing in particular. The bike rides up and down and all throughout the neighborhood. The lunches that were quickly gobbled by the side door because you couldn't come inside long enough to be bothered with an actual lunch. There was PLAYING to be done, mom! This is serious stuff! We must ride our Big Wheels until we develop blisters on our back from rubbing against the hard plastic seat. We must run around until our sandals rub the skin off our pinky toes and our knees are permanently blackened by a day's worth of sweat and dirt brought on by our fascination with mud pies and ant hills.

And then, there's my kids' summer.

It doesn't look a lot different from their school year. We all wake up. We get dressed. We eat breakfast. We leave and lock the house for approximately 10 hours, during which time we go to work and our kids go to their various programs. We come back home, make dinner, eat said dinner, clean up and start bedtime. During the summer months my girls are often in bed when the sun is still miles above the horizon and the laughter of other kids still outside playing waft through their windows.

I can tell that the days are already beginning to get shorter. I can tell because my mom guilt of putting my kids to bed in broad daylight is being eased, since it's no longer broad daylight when I put them to bed. Yet I feel badly because I'm wishing away my children's summer.

So I try to focus on the things my kids get to do in the summer that I never did.

Lindsey got to go to ValleyFair with 20 of her classmates. Twenty. I can guarantee you I would NEVER agree to take her and 20 of her closest friends to ValleyFair. Apparently it was fun and involved some screaming and laughing. She also takes approximately 2 to 3 field trips a week to various museums, regional parks, water parks and all kinds of other places that I am pretty sure I would have never had the ambition to take on.

Marissa was able to take a soccer class with her classmates as well, an activity I can guarantee you I would never organize had I been at home with her. She also took part in a music class and cooking class where they get to eat their mistakes. Sounds delicious.

I'd like to hear from other working moms -- how do you cope with summer mom guilt? What are your kids' favorite parts of summer?

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Alien Invasion

This past weekend aliens descended upon our house and kidnapped us for a few days.

Actually, those same aliens probably think they landed on a strange planet and wondered when they could return home.

Those aliens would be my dad and my sister, who drove and flew from their respective homes to spend a few days in our house, visiting and making new memories of togetherness.

I thoroughly enjoy visits with my family -- this one was made special by the fact that we don't see my dad but maybe once a year, and it had been two years since Marissa had seen him. After the initial shock of having a grandpa who she wasn't expecting be sitting in our living room chair, she quickly took a liking to him, jumping into his lap and hugging his leg at every turn. She played puzzles with him and wanted to show him all kinds of toys and things that are important to her. It was pretty sweet.

I had forgotten how busy our life is in comparison to others. Our family life is, after all, our family life, and it is at a pace to which we are accustomed. For people like my dad and sister, who don't have little ones around all the time, it is a busy-ness which tires them and makes them want to nap. (Not so possible in our home sometimes.) Every time my sister comes to visit she says how much she loves spending time with her nieces...and how happy she is to return to her nice, quiet home after a few exhausting days at ours.

Some of the highlights of the visit were:

--When Kristi spent a special day with just Marissa, going to the pool and playing games.

--When Kristi took Lindsey to a nail shop to get her first ever pedicure. She only let them paint her nails, and she made funny vibrating sounds as she sat in the vibrating chair.

--Having "restaurant night" at our house on Friday, comprised of all the leftovers of the week which Lindsey and Kristi had menued out and helped to serve. (I love the fact that my family doesn't mind eating my leftovers -- thanks!)

--Going to the farmer's market on Saturday morning to get some fresh fruits and veggies. Lindsey got to buy flowers for the house and chose red roses.

--Getting a babysitter for a few hours and going out for a dinner just the adults. The best part was when we were waiting for the babysitter and  Lindsey asked every 30 seconds when Zoe was going to show up at our house. I finally gave her a timer so she would stop asking me, and she counted down every second of every minute until Zoe arrived. Kristi was in awe.

--Kristi actually tried sushi (!) at previously mentioned restaurant, and ordered salmon for dinner...and liked it!

--Going to the Bakken Museum with Kristi, Dad and Marissa and checking out all the crazy medical electric devices.

--Going to the Aquatennial celebration at Lake Calhoun to watch Lindsey's milk carton boat compete in a race. They didn't sink, though they looked like they were going to at any minute.

--My attempt at a chocolate flourless cake, which could not be wrestled out of the cake pan. It was delicious anyway in scoops and pieces, accompanied by the raspberry sauce I made when the raspberries got squished in the back seat on the way back from the farmer's market. (This is Lindsey threatening to touch Grandpa Tom with her chocolatey fingers.)

It went by too quickly and everyone left too soon. But we get to see my dad again this coming weekend, on his way back from Michigan to Arkansas. I just hope we didn't scare him away for another couple of years.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No More Moo Juice for Lindsey

This past week we've been struggling with an on-again off-again tummy ache for Lindsey. She was home from school Thursday afternoon and all day Friday, and then Monday and Tuesday of this past week she didn't want to go to school at all, which we weren't quite sure if it was related to a tummy ache or other non-health reason why she may not want to go.

Wayne started noticing that her tummy ache would show up when she ate dairy products. She had a dairy allergy as a newborn but she outgrew it at age 1, and we haven't had to watch what either of our kids eat since then (from an allergy standpoint, it's not like we let them fill up on cookies and cakes).

After several days of no tummy ache and no issues, I let Lindsey pick out a dessert tonight that I knew had dairy in it -- mascarpone cheese. She didn't know it was cheese, it certainly didn't taste like cheese, and she began scarfing it down. I figured this was a good test to see if this was really a dairy thing or perhaps a bit of drama. Because, after all, Lindsey has been known to be dramatic.

She stopped eating halfway through.

And twenty minutes later, she was in her bedroom, crying in pain with an obviously bloated belly.

Bad mommy. Bad.

I tried to comfort her best I could, but she didn't want anyone near her. She didn't feel well until she let loose the largest, biggest burp I've ever heard in my life, from child or adult. Picture Homer Simpson's lips flapping in the wind from his belch, that's what this belch sounded like. She looked a bit surprised after it came out, instantly felt better, was exhausted and went immediately to bed.

I feel badly that I didn't believe her. She has been known to complain of tummy aches when she doesn't want to go to school in the past, so we had precedence for doubt. But this was the real deal -- she was truly reacting to what she'd eaten, there was no doubt about it tonight since she hadn't realized it was dairy.

So it looks like we will be in for an adjustment for our family -- no more pizzas, no more yogurt, no more milk, no more casseroles with cheesy toppings, no more ice cream. Ice cream, people. She's already been tempted in that they served a Dairy Queen cake at her school today to celebrate a staff member's birthday, and she turned it down.

Turned it down, I tell you, TURNED IT DOWN.

I can only think of one reason why she'd do that -- because she knows if she ate it she would feel MISERABLE.

This will be an interesting change...for all of us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Painting: Not Just for Paper

While purging organizing some outdoor toys this weekend Wayne came across an art easel that he wanted to toss, which immediately made both of our girls want to use it. We pulled out our two art easels and set up the paints and paper for some outdoor studio time.

Lindsey began with a butterfly -- nice!

Then she decided to copy the same butterfly design on her hand.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of Marissa's butterfly that she had painted on the paper, but she definitely took Lindsey's lead and began painting on the canvas of her choice: herself.

I love the impish grin on her face. She decided to give herself a beard and moustache after covering her hands and arms up to her elbows.

This was followed by a bath in which the water became nearly the same color green as the infamous green paint incident of last summer.

What a great way to spend a summer evening!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wordful Wednesday

This is the running dialogue from Lindsey as she and I biked around Lake Harriet last night:

Mommy, did you know that the other day when we had swimming lessons Emma and I are in the same group and we get to be together for swim lessons and oh! Lookit that little doggie! He's so cuuuute! The other day I saw a doggie he was walking with his owner and he stopped and looked like he was kinda going to go potty on our lawn but he just sniffed around and kept going, and then I oh look! A boston terrier! He looks just like Dax! Mommy, is it true that if a Boston Terrier has white paws that it's a girl dog and if it doesn't it's a boy dog? And what if it has some white paws and some black paws? Well, I think it would be easier to know the boy dogs from the girl dogs if one always had white paws and the other had black paws and Mommy, what is that smell? It smells like stinky something. I wonder if there are some fish around here or something and Mommy? Are we close to the troll's house yet? Because I think I kind of recognize this area here but I'm not quite sure and oh! There's the monster! I've seen him lots of times now, he looks just the same. He's not really a monster, and it was so much fun when we came here this weekend and I got to tell Marissa all kinds of stories about the lake monster and she got so scared, and then she saw it and found out that it wasn't a real monster at all and that was so funny and Mommy, are we there yet? Where's the troll's house? Do you think the troll is going to be there this time? Where does he go when it's nighttime? Do you think he's answered our letter yet? I hope he's answered it since I asked for invisible wings, and how would he get the wings to me anyway, and how could I tell if I got them if they were invisible? Maybe I would be able to feel them or something but I couldn't see them because they would be invisible and Mommy? Are we at the troll house yet?

A Twist on Leftovers Night

My girls love to play a game called "restaurant." This game consists of Wayne and I sitting at the dining room table while the girls put various plates of pretend food in front of us. They both have little aprons they wear. Marissa will usually pretend to be the cook in the kitchen while Lindsey will be the server.

Add to this the fact that every time I say we're having leftovers for dinner, I get groans and moans of complaint from both the girls.

Eureka. [Small picture of incandescent lightbulb above my head.]

This evening was definitely leftovers night -- we had a three-day weekend's worth of grilled meats and cooked meals in our refrigerator. So instead of announcing that it was leftovers night, I grabbed a couple of pieces of paper and began to make an inventory of what our choices were:

Meats: pork, chicken, steak

Side dishes: potatoes, rice, salad

Fruits and veggies: green grapes, apples, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries

Drink: water, orange juice, red juice

These were labeled "Mom's Diner" and each girl was handed a menu, with instructions to put a check mark by the foods they wanted. I then collected the menus, and Lindsey became my "kitchen helper," helping me get plates, fill cups with the selected beverages, and getting out the selected fruits and veggies. Within 10 minutes their plates were in front of them with their menus beside them, so they could check to make sure they got what they had ordered.

As you can see, they were both pleased as could be to be eating their restaurant meals, custom ordered to their likings. They ate just about everything on their plates with the exception of Marissa, our vegetarian, who didn't touch her meat but ate all the fruits and veggies she had asked for.

Score one for mom.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Closest I'll Come to Camping...I Think

Our tub has been needing to get re-glazed for some time -- the last glaze job, which was guaranteed for 5 years, was completed five years ago and had officially begun flaking off. Big time. I made an appointment to have it re-glazed on Thursday, July 1st, their first available appointment. They would let themselves into our house and get it started, I would leave work around 2 pm and work from home until they were done so that I could inspect the final project and pay for the work.

Then I had a training come up for work that was from 2-4 pm on Thursday, so I had to re-schedule the glaze job. Any chance they could squeeze it in Friday before the holiday weekend?

Absolutely, they said. Only problem was, I forgot that it takes 48 hours for the glaze to cure during which period you cannot use the tub. This now means it won't be usable until Sunday night.

Did I mention it's the ONLY tub or shower in our entire house?

Did I mention that the forecast called for 90 degree heat with 60 or 70 percent humidity?

Did I mention that we were around our house all weekend, doing all kinds of activites? Things like watching a parade...

Or watching same parade from under a parasol, due to the heat...
Or walking down to Lake Harriet...
Or wondering at the Lake Creature at said lake...

Or dipping toes into said lake to cool at least the tootsies off...
...or picnicking at the lake...

...the list goes on and on.

All without benefit of a tub to shower or bathe in. The tub was looking so inviting, too, so sparkly and shiny white.

Marissa and I got a brief respite by going to a city park that has a water area called the Splash Pad. It was filled with all kinds of fountains and curtains of water that you could run through. Saturday night she and I went go bed feeling slightly refreshed and not quite as sticky, but Lindsey's face had a film of sweat and three days worth of sunscreen on it. You could smell the old sunscreen smell if you got close to her; don't even get me started on how the adults fared.

Finally, Sunday evening we could finally use the tub, and I was the first one to shower. Aahhhh! It felt so good to get clean! I had an inkling of what it feels like to come home after a week of tent camping, with the only way to wash off being a dip in the lake. No thank you, not for me. I could barely stand it being around my own house when I had access to good water everywhere, just not in the form I wanted.

We now have our tub back, all happy and sparkly new. And we had a fabulous 4th of July weekend to boot, with the lack of bathing just adding to the adventures of the weekend.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Five Years in a Dog's Life

Five years ago we hired a company to re-glaze our bathtub. I still remember that I was about 8 months pregnant with Marissa and was questioning whether or not we should spend the money on this particular home improvement. It turned out to be well worth it, the tub held up for the entire 5 year warranty period and looked like a brand new tub.

I had come home early from work all those five years ago to inspect the final work and pay the worker. I remember the man saying that Dax had kept out of his way, but only after determining that the human was moving around too much to actually have a lap to settle in. Dax had satisfied himself with settling in Lindsey's room at a respectable distance from the noise and smell, but close enough to sidle up for a pat should the opportunity present itself.

Fast forward five years. The tub is now flaking, it's time to re-glaze. So we hire the same company since we were pleased with their work the first time around and they were always so good about coming back for touch ups during the warranty period.

I came home early from work today, to again inspect the final job and pay the worker. I'd been home for about 5 minutes when I heard Dax come up from the basement. I went upstairs to check in on the work and Dax accompanied me, sniffing and smelling the worker like he hadn't seen him before.

The guy says, "Oh, was he here the whole time?"

Dax, who had been happily snoozing in the basement, had never even heard the man enter the house, noisily sandblast off the old glaze or do any of his work. He is too hard of hearing for that anymore.

Makes you realize how long five years is to a dog.