I almost didn’t let my Girl Scout sell cookies this year…

Dear Girl Scout Cookie fan: it’s that time of year! The time of year the parents of a particular Girl Scout dread–the nagging to accost friends and neighbors for sales, the drumming up of business, the eventual slow cookie dispersion and money collecting…

Oh, yes, it’s Girl Scout Cookie time!

After the pain and agony of getting Sunshine to be diligent about collecting funds, distributing cookies, and generally make us not dread Cookie Time, we almost didn’t let her sell them this year. But I think that’s un-
American. And how can you be known to have a resident Girl Scout and NOT be selling cookies??

And then, I came up with a BRILLIANT plan! (insert evil cackle here)

After a discussion about our expectations and what might motivate her this year to improve her diligence, I wrote up a contract and had Sunshine initial and sign it before she got her cookie sales sheet. Feel free to use it, Girl Scout parents. I think it’s legal and binding. At least at our house . :)

P.S She came up with her own ‘no reading’ consequence. But I came up with the offers to sell off her stuff if she didn’t collect $ in a timely manner. :)

Girl Scout Cookie Selling Agreement with Parents, 2011

I, Daughter’s Name, promise with all my heart to make cookie selling a pleasant experience for myself and my beloved parents and family this year.  I promise to:

1)      Collect orders in an organized way (so I can read my order later and everything is accurate). ___

2)      Only contact people I am able to get orders to in a timely manner. ___

3)      Keep my paperwork where I can find it. ___

4)      When cookies come in, I will immediately sort orders and begin delivery. ___

5)      I will collect money with checks made out to my troop, NOT my beloved parents. ___

6)      I will double check all math, as I know I will make up any difference in money or cookies. ___

7)      I will work diligently to get orders to people and money from people within 1 week of when I get the orders.___

I agree that I will not be allowed to read any day that I have not worked to the best of my ability to make the cookie selling and delivery season as smooth and painless on our family as possible___

I agree that I am responsible for all uncollected money and I will personally make up the difference from my allowance or by selling my personal belongings within 1 week of when I get the cookies. ___

I love Girl Scouts and my family and want to be a blessing to both. ___

Signed:

___________________�
Daugher’s name, date                                                    

____________________
Parent,  date                                                                       

Witnessed by:
­­­­­­­­­­­____________________­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_ �
Signature and printed name, date

Disney on Ice in Denver–this mom’s review

Disney on Ice is in Denver at the Pepsi Center, Dec. 9th-12th (with a special show in Spanish).  Use COLORADO in the coupon/promo code box for a discount on tickets when purchased through Colorado Kids.

I saw a Disney on Ice production a few years ago at the Denver Coliseum and it was, well, um….not great. I’m not sure if the venue was the problem or if I just had high expectations, but I remember thinking it was a tad cheesy and not really a show that lived up to the level I associated with Disney.

The allure of a Disney production means hope beats eternal for this writer and mom, though.  So when Colorado Kids asked me to do a sneak peek (with complimentary tickets), I gathered up my two younger kids (4 & 8) and two of their BFF’s and off we went.

What you need to know if you go

Getting there: To avoid dealing with parking, we took the train in from the ‘burbs and it was very easy-peasy. The Pepsi Center is a great venue—much better for a Disney show. The staff there is just fantastic, and we got to meet several of them (which is what happens when you lose a coat and then have a kid fall on the escalator—she was fine, but good times, peeps, good times). Anyway, they were very professional and really gracious.

Concessions: We paid $4.50 for a big tub of popcorn from the Pepsi Center and then $12 for a bag of Disney cotton candy, spun by real princesses (I’m guessing).  :) Know that there is ‘reasonably’ priced concession foods and then Disney snow cones, treats and paraphernalia. So plan accordingly. I made the kids get (multiple) drinks at the drinking fountain.

The show: Overall, it was a good show and I think worth the ticket price. It felt more substantial then the show a few years back, though I wasn’t as wowed as I had hoped. There were definitely little wows and by the kid’s faces, they liked it. NOTE: At about the 15 minute mark the show gets a bit creepy for young kids. Characters from Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas take the ice and the kids I was with were a bit scared.  After the intermission, there is a pretty neat bit where the ice is lit on fire. All the kids in the audience sang along to a song from The Princess and the Frog and there were a nice number of very familiar Disney princesses and characters.  The Toy Story characters were a crowd favorite. The overall arch of the story will be lost on most kids, so I would strongly encourage you to get seats as close as you can so they will be able to focus on the characters. (Side note: I wonder why they don’t use the big screens to project the show? Hmm…)

The actual skating was average to pretty good with several crowd pleasing moves.

But, really, your kids aren’t there for the skating—they are there for the cotton candy.

I wish it was still September 10th

Sometimes, I wish I lived in a September 10th world, where September 11th was just the day before September 12th.

A world where I didn’t wonder at a permanently altered Manhattan skyline.
Where an ‘I love NY’ shirt was a tourist item, not a symbol of solidarity.
 A world where I still didn’t know where Shanksville, Pennsylvania was.  

A world where TSA agents didn’t have so much power and the idea of Ziploc baggies and 3-1-1 didn’t exist.
A world where I didn’t keep an eye on planes flying overhead. Still.

A world where I didn’t have to think about our family disaster plan and plastic sheeting and duct tape.
A world where I didn’t see armed police and soldiers, seemingly everywhere.

A world where I wasn’t bound together in a brotherhood of horror.  Where terrorist attacks in other parts of the world felt really far away.

 A world where I didn’t know how much people hated me because I am an American—no other reason.

A world where terror hadn’t touched me.

 A world where I felt safe. Ignorant, of course, but safe.

Lest we forget how it felt. (News reports from the morning of Sept 11th-open in new window)

Where were you when everything changed?

Wanna be a writer? You’re going to have to, you know, WRITE

Lots of people say they want to be writers. And this used to make me panic a bit, actually, because I wanted to be a writer and I figured if everyone was a writer, I’d never get any work.

What I discovered, however, is that lots of people say they want to write, but very, very few of them will ever do it.

Phew! (Not to be all about me, but just for a second…)

As with anything, wanting to do something is not actually the same as doing that thing. No, really, hear me out on this: writers write. One more time (in case you are caffeine-deprived): writers WRITE.  You know, write? As in, words? On paper? Or a screen?

I am still near the beginning of my writing journey (about 100 blog posts, ~90 other web articles, some magazine article publication, a self-published ebook under my belt). So I am still learning, clearly. But I have noticed that real, live writers do two things:

1)  They write. I wrote very badly at first (note: I did not mention my 55,000 word really, really bad first draft of a novel in my writing journey. Because it’s horrible. No, I mean it.) And I didn’t write about anything that was all that interesting to anyone, either. I started writing on my personal blog about three years ago. I can’t even look back at those first posts because I’ll cringe. (You can, if you want, just don’t tell me how much hope they bring you, ‘k?) But I wrote. I started writing one post a week. And as I had more ideas, I wrote things on YourHub.com and some pay-per-click places (which I’ve made about 73 cents on). 

Writing requires practice. It’s okay if it’s terrible at first.  Let me re-phrase that; it will probably be terrible at first, so just get that part overwith. Blogging is one of the best ways I’ve seen to develop your own style and voice, so I recommend you start with that.

2) Writers hang out with other writers. Wait, let me amend that; published writers hang out with other writers. I started going to a local writing group LONG before I called myself a writer. In fact, it took a couple of published articles and attending the group off and on for two years before I could stutter out the words “I’m a writer”.

Writers tend to be fairly solitary critters. I think it’s because we are talking in our heads all the time and feel like live people are an interruption of the story or article going on internally. But how on earth are you going to learn about writing and publishing and how to normalize your feelings of “I write drivel! Pointless, crappy drivel! That no one will want to read!” Every writer feels that way, but you would know that if you went to a writing group. No one understands writers better than writers. Even if you have a fabulous person in your life who lets you talk through your really, really, really terrible story, they aren’t going to move you forward and improve your writing like other writers will.

If you want to write, you are meant to do it. You have a story to tell that the world needs to hear; whether it is on a blog, or in your local newspaper, or in a novel. If you want to write, write. And hang out with others who write, too.

No touchy the mommy’s stuffy

Image courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Look! Scissors that can be found!

I become more like my mother every day. And I mean it in that way that makes me kinda shudder. The particular way I am referring to (well, today anyway) is the mom who freaks out when her kids touch her stuff. Like, my stapler. Or my hand mirror. Or my ruler. Or anything.

I can still remember rolling my eyes a bit when my mom would be all up in my face about using something of hers a) without asking and b) without returning it.

Seesh. Weren’t they SUPPOSED to be used? Not sitting in a drawer, well-organized all day? It seemed a teensy-weensy bit over the top, in my kid opinion. I mean, honestly, I just borrowed them for a minute (which turned into days when I didn’t put them back) and they were just scissors!

But now, I know. They are never ‘just scissors’. They are the good scissors. The ones that are sharp enough to cut anything without hassle. And the ones that the mommy always knows where they are (which is why they get borrowed—no one can find the other 11 pairs of household scissors). The mommy uses them and she puts them back. Where.they.belong.

Then, NotMe borrows them, or her sister IDidntDoIt, and Mommy never finds them again.
Which leads to me getting all up in my kids’ faces to explain how we DON’T.TOUCH.MOMMY (dearest)’s.THINGS.WITHOUT.ASKING.

This is how items get attacked by the label maker with labels like “Property of Mom” or “Do NOT Touch! Yes, this means YOU!”

When, oh, when did I become this mother? The one who wanted to find her stuff? And in good condition? And where she left it?

No touchy my stuffy. Thankseversomuch.
Love, Your Totally Unreasonable Mom

Look! Look! Meals: The art and science of feeding your family (made really simple!) eBook

I am so excited to announce the publication of my first eBook! What started as a much-requested speaking topic has evolved into a 40-page eBook. There was just more to talk about than an hour would allow. :)

I have always been interested in food-what we eat, why we eat what we do. As the person incharge of meals in my home, I made an effort to learn and to be intentional about food. My background in human biology and public health made me even more aware of how food impacts our lives long-term. It was a journey over several years as I researched, learned and applied it to our family’s busy life. This book came about when friends and other moms saw how I planned meals and heard me talk about nutrition. I have been planning meals for years and I had a good system that only took a few minutes. Moms kept asking questions and I kept doing research. When organic foods became a hot topic , I looked into what was fact and what was fiction. As I became more intentional about nutrition, I gathered information and implemented what made sense and what was practical for a real mom, in a real life.

In Meals: the art and science of feeding your family (made really simple!), we’ll talk about the most common concerns moms have about food:

1) Nutrition—you only need to remember 4 things for you and your family to have good nutrition.
2) Organic food—what’s fact and what’s fiction and how it impacts your budget.
3) Young ‘uns—feeding babies and toddlers. Food adventure!
4) Menu planning—a system that’s easy to implement and use in a real life.
5) Coupons—don’t worry, it’s not what you think! Who has time to clip and organize? But there is money to be saved without a lot of time and effort if you want to.
6) Art—the emotional side of food. Because food isn’t just food. Includes tips on what NOT to do as you focus on better nutrition for your family (hint: it involves keeping the Oreos™)
7) Picky pants—yes, this topic requires its own section. Thoughts and tips to move beyond being a short-order cook and helping your kid become a more adventurous eater.

Want more info? Take a sneak peek at the Table of Contents.
Ready to buy it? Click here!

Is it far enough away from Mother’s Day to say this?

I experience Mother’s Day like most mom’s–flowers, handmade cards, breakfast in bed (usually Cheerios).  Lot’s of love and extra hugs and appreciation.

But here’s the problem:  I kinda hate Mother’s Day.  (I recognize that this is an anti-American sentiment and am prepared for the backlash against all things apple-pie, but hear me out on this.)

Before I was a mom
Before I was the mom, I would be sure to call the appropriate moms in my life and thank them for their year of service.  I’ve had different mom-types in my life; from my mom, my stepmom, moms-in-law, and an older sister who functions very much like a mom to me.  Even after my mother died, I still had plenty of people who filled that role in my life to thank.

And then I was a mom
My first Mother’s Day was, uh, underwhelming to say the least.  I was due with our first child within a few weeks, and apparently, the 9 months of care and concern and research and concern and eliminating things from my life and concern…..well, it didn’t occur to my dear bemused husband that I was a mother yet.  No one wished me a Happy Mother’s Day until an old lady at church did.  To which Darling looked slightly surprised and muttered in passing, ‘Oh, yeah, Happy Mother’s Day”.  Not that I’m bitter. 

With all my kids now exterior, I’ve had various seasons of Mother’s Day.  From the ‘I need a freakin’ day AWAY from you people!’ and ‘Can’t I PLEASE just sleep in ONE DAY A YEAR!’ to ‘Wow, uh, thanks for the non-existent effort to honor me….no, really, I’ll fix lunch.’  Not that my family doesn’t make an effort to make the day special (’cause they do), but there’s a lot of expectation built up around Mother’s Day.  How much honor is enough?  Do we have to honor all day or just until after brunch?  Can we still have a playdate?

Part of my problem is that there are times when I feel like I am a horrible mother, and Mother’s Day just makes it worse.  I hate those ‘World’s BEST Mom!’ cards.  ‘Cause, ya know what?  There are days I don’t like much about mothering and those stupid cards just make me want to hurt someone at Hallmark.  Why don’t ya just pour some salt in there while you’re at it?

And then there is the part of me that is sad for woman I know who aren’t moms–either by choice or by circumstances.  I feel a bit awkward about being honored as a mom when they aren’t honored in other ways that celebrate them.  If you have a friend who has struggled to get pregnant or lost a baby, you know what I mean.  I want to tell them all the ways I think they rock and I am sad that Mother’s Day feels a little…exclusive.

This year, I am especially thoughtful because my sister-in-law just passed away, leaving 4 grown children and her newborn grandbaby to face this day without her.  I think of the mother of her grandchild and the bitter sweetness of her first Mother’s Day–as a mom and as mourning her mother.

I think that lots of moms feel the way I do–that in a good year, you don’t really want the praise Mother’s Day brings, and in a bad year, you feel like you don’t deserve it.  And then there’s the sense that we are leaving some of our darling friends and family members out of the club.

Maybe we could just have Woman’s Day.  And then I could go to the mountains with my girlfriends and sisters and we could celebrate all the women in our lives, no exceptions.

How to cook with a baby or toddler underfoot: 11 tips

I had the fun privilage to speak to a group of moms with young children yesterday at Mountainview MOPS (shout-out!).  We talked about some of the challenges of feeding a family (ya know, now that you’re the mom and all).  Something that I didn’t get a chance to cover was the joy of cooking when you have little people clutching your knees.  Here are some tips and tricks on how to cook dinner with babies and toddlers underfoot:

1)      Start meal prep EARLY if you can.  Chop, measure out ingredients, set out the stuff you’ll need.  Even putting the pot of water on the stove with the lid on it to start for pasta later is so much easier to do at naptime then with a baby clutching your leg.  Also, crockpot cooking is fabulous.

2)      Have a baby-safe cabinet that is only available when you are in the kitchen.  A collection of pots, plastic bowls and wooden spoons make a great toy box.  If it is only available (unlocked) during meal prep or cleanup, it will likely last longer as a distraction.  Alternately, a box full of safe kitchen tools and such that you can pull out of a cabinet or closet works, too.

3)      Put your toddler’s play kitchen in or near the kitchen.  Narrate what you are doing and ask them questions about what they are doing.  Taste their creations and have them taste yours.  This is also a great idea if you have a kid who is cautious about new foods.  It gives them some input to the meal when mom says, ‘Do you think this needs more seasoning?’

4)      This may be the time of day you bribe, er—ask–an older child to play with the baby.  It helps if they play in the baby’s room and not in a room right off the kitchen.  My older kids were always afraid they would be on ‘baby duty’ forever, so I’d set the timer for 10-20 minutes, depending on the age of my older kid.  A neighborhood kid can do the same job.  When my oldest was a toddler, I had a tween in the neighborhood who loved kids and showed up on my doorstep many evenings to take my little one to her house to play for half an hour.  God bless her mom who remembered what dinner prep was like and let her daughter do that!

5)      Let them help cook!  Even little toddlers can get the veggies out of the veggie drawer (one by one).  Have them change into their chef hat and apron first and wash their hands and you’ll have a couple extra minutes.  They can stir, count stuff out, be your errand boy or girl (hint: any errand that takes them out of the kitchen for a few minutes is a good errand, like checking on the fish or looking out the window to check the weather).

6)      Fill up the kitchen sink and have them ‘wash dishes’.  I found it helpful to put a towel on the edge of the sink so they didn’t drench themselves.

7)      This is a great time for a special activity or toy in their high chair—painting with water, Playdoh™, squishing shaving cream and a drop of food coloring around in a Ziploc™ bag, stirring ice cubes, etc.

8)      I am a big fan of a healthy pre-dinner ‘snack’.  I serve veggies (my kids love frozen peas or mixed veggies) or a small portion of yogurt.  As kids get older, a small portion of veggies with dip in their own bowl is great, too.  This is a terrific time to try out a food your child is not familiar with, too, as they are hungry but they don’t have the pressure of being at the table.  So put a piece of zucchini in with the carrot sticks.

9)       Stick a playpen or pack-n-play in the corner of your kitchen and plunk your little one in with a selection of toys.  Learning to entertain themselves is a skill and takes some time.  Start when they are infants if you can.  If not, start with just a few minutes and increase a minute a day until they can sit and play for a solid stretch (15 mins or more).  If your baby or toddler does ‘crib time’ or ‘room time’, this is a good time of day to do that, too, if they’re not too cranky.

10)      Judicious use of a DVD or TV.   Really.

11)       This is what take-out is for.  If it’s a really difficult day, shake out the piggy bank and call for pizza.

What works for you?

Apparently, I am a fair-weather wife when it comes to submitting

Interestingly, I thought I had conquered most of my issues with being, well, uh, ‘submissive’ (*shudder*). Clearly, not so.

When we got married, I actually changed our vows so that I wouldn’t have to say ‘love, honor, and obey’ to ‘love, honor and cherish’.  Cherish, I could do.  Obey?  Hello?  What century are we in?

Yes, I get that even businesses need the one person to lead, to take the authority, to be the final answer.  Really.  I get it.  Kinda.

It was just that being raised in the 70’s and 80’s…well, I just didn’t get why my husband got to be the leader. 

God worked on me (as he tends to do when I am wildly wrong about something), and over the years, I started to figure out what being submissive meant, more or less.  It kinda grated on me, though, the whole idea of being under Casey’s authority.  I mean, who made him the leader?  (I can hear the more spiritually mature wives either chuckle at this or shake their heads at me.)

I liked the part about it where Casey was going to have to answer to God about stuff, and I liked that he was responsible for decisions and the outcome of those.  And I guess I mostly worked with it because I didn’t disagree with him on big decisions much.

Until now.  I had a moment yesterday when I flat out told him I wasn’t going to do something he thought we should do (in regards to our kids’ schooling).  It felt awful and selfish and, well, awful.  I can’t ever remember openly defying him like that in 15 years of marriage.  And I know he’s right, I just don’t like it.  His choice requires personal growth on my part and I am not a fan of personal growth cause it’s painful and has no guaranteed outcome (unlike birth, where you at least get a cute baby at the end).

I thought I had come so far on the submitting thing, but it turns out I haven’t.  I still cringe when I hear sermons about it in church, and even just hearing the word ‘submit’ gives me a bugs-crawling-all-over-my-skin feeling.  So, it seems that I may have a grasp on it mentally, but it hasn’t fully made it’s way into my heart.  Ugh.

Ditching the stroller–the end of an era

We took our first trip in almost 11 years that didn’t involve a stroller.

I just don’t know what to think about that.  For the first time since child rearing began for us in 1999, everyone in our group could feed, dress, wipe, and cart themselves around.

Our littlest daughter, Lady Bug, age 3 ½ , has gone from being a toddler to being a kid.  In a blur, of course.  Over the past year or so, each trip has seen the loss of a ‘baby item’ off her packing list.  No more diapers, baby monitor, binky, potty seat, toddler utensils, sippy cups.  We’ve even stopped worrying about a change of clothes.  And now, the stroller.

Oh, the places we’ve gone with a stroller in the last 11 years—walks around the neighborhood, vacations to see family, the beach, the mountains, all things Disney, the museum, the zoo.  Even trips just to the grocery store were made easier (for our kids and us) by having a familiar place to contain and transport babies.  And then there are the other millions of things our strollers have held besides little kids—shopping bags, diaper bags, all the family’s coats shoved into the little basket or draped over the top.  Oftentimes, little ones have used it much less on an outing than our family’s paraphernalia has. 

As I packed the car this last time, I pulled the stroller out and thought, `I don’t think we’ll need the stroller.’  At first, it was just a space necessity.  But as I tucked it into a spot in the garage I thought, `Huh, we haven’t used it in a long time.  Maybe we’re done with it.’

What a sad thought that was, in a way, to not need a stroller any more.  ‘Cause that means that there aren’t any babies or toddlers at our house.  It means the tiny sweet humans who have occupied those stroller seats for so many years are, well, growing up.

It’s the end of an era.  We’re putting babyish things behind us.  Oh, I’m not quite ready to give that stroller away yet, but it’s not because anyone here needs it.  Well, maybe I need to see it—not to mourn the loss of babyhood so much, but as a monument to what has transpired in our lives.  Eleven years is a long time to need one piece of gear.  And, really, negotiating any outing without a stroller is much easier.  I think of all the doors, stairs, small spaces, and crowds that have been frustrating with a stroller.

But, oh, what stories our strollers could tell.