Friday, April 22, 2011

Two Types of Green in this World

I posted this a couple years ago, but it honor of gas prices once again making me cry, shrink rays not yet invented, and Earth Day being celebrated today, I thought I would repost it.

I have an announcement: I have decided to go green. You see I like green. I think it is very important. Only the green I’m talking about comes in paper form. You know the kind you might find in a wallet or bank; although not a lot of banks anymore (stupid lending practices), or, for that matter, wallets (stupid spending practices). Don’t get me wrong, I love our environment. The moon would be fun to visit, but who would want to live there? Plus, I’m all about clean air and water. And I’m sure you all realize that SUV’s caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Kyoto treaty wasn’t signed during the Little Ice Age of the 1600’s.

But my green helps with other important things in life, like eating or buying iTunes songs. Lucky for the over the top, crazy environmentalists (you know the ones fighting for the rights of one species of roach or flying in private jets all over the world to environmental conferences), my green happens to correspond with theirs this time.

You see, funny thing about 6 kids, they TAKE UP A LOT OF ROOM. Which is why I drive a huge, gas guzzling, 9-seat Suburban. With the rising gas prices, I am having major green anxiety. Did you know most gas stations have a maximum amount you can buy per purchase? I do. In fact for certain parts of last summer I hit that limit EVERY week. I think it would have been less painful to actually give the station an arm and a leg.

Nowadays, $75 dollars seems to buy about 5 gallons of gas. With my Suburban’s mileage, I estimate that is enough to drive the 3 miles directly home and almost make it back to the station (on fumes, of course). So I have decided I need to find a way to save on my gas budget (which is closely approaching my house payment in size). Here are my ideas thus far:

1- Shrink the children with a shrink ray so they fit in the backseat of a car. This idea was perfect, until I found out shrink rays are hard to find. Did you know that “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” ISN’T a documentary?!? I know, I know, I was shocked, too.

2- Bungee cord one child on top of a minivan. I was in the middle of trying to decide between bungeeing a seat up there or just hooking the cords directly around them when I remembered how our window broke in our 1st house in PA- it involved bungee cords and near eye loss. And a lot of parental yelling. I decided I didn’t want to risk losing my voice (or eye) so I had to retire this idea.

3- Walk. Pioneers did it, why not? I was trying to estimate the size I needed to make my handcart. By the time you added everything I take with me in the Suburban (6 kids, water bottles, snacks, diapers, toys, extra clothes, missing shoes, candy wrappers, old french fries, the kitchen sink, etc.) I found my handcart would need to be, well, suburban size. I tried pushing the suburban. Not so great.

4- Combine outings for fewer trips. Hello, I actually tried this one after the oldest kids started school. Did you know that taking 2 kids to 6 stops is as exhausting as taking 6 kids to 2? And they said I would never need to use 1st grade math skills in real life.

5- Have my husband take the Suburban to work while the kids are in school so I can drive the Audi with my preschoolers. He told me he would get back to me on that one. . .

6- Convert my SUV to run on natural gas, or maybe milk, or uneaten french fries residing under car seats. My kids can come close to producing enough natural gas but not quite (only way to get it yet), milk is nearly as expensive as gas (don’t get me started on my exploding grocery budget), and the science just isn’t there yet for french fries (although I’ve heard some interesting things about used fast-food oil).

7- Buy a transporter. Star Trek isn’t real either? Science-FICTION?!? Totally not fair.

Well I am about out of ideas, plus I just found out that I could only sell my SUV for about $3.67 anyway (apparently no one else wants to spend a fortune on the drive to the supermarket either). I guess I’ll resort to sobbing miserably every time the gas gauge approaches “empty”. It’s not easy being green. Or losing green to my Big Red Suburban. And I think science should start researching shrink rays, transporters, and french fry cars. That would be great.

>Join me next week when I discuss how I am trying to conserve water. Family baths anyone? We can wash the dishes at the same time!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Learning to balance the teenager line

It must have been quite late, that night several months ago, when the creeping footsteps woke me. I could feel her in the room, hesitating by my bedside, hoping to not startle me awake.

"What do you need?" I mumbled, still half asleep.

"Matthew just threw up. I've started a bath for him and stripped the sheets. I'll wash him off, remake the bed and clean it all up. I just remembered running water in the middle of the night often wakes you, and I didn't want you to worry when you heard it."

I felt instant relief as I sank back into dreamland. My teenager seemed to grasp what needed done and had it under control. My precious sleep time could be preserved.

Just as I hit the brink of oblivion, a thought jolted me back; I suddenly remembered that I am the mother. She was a good-hearted teenage girl who still needed sleep before facing a full day of middle school. Just because she is willing to take on responsibility doesn't mean I should make her. So I sighed as I forced my body fully awake. I thanked her for being so kind to her youngest sibling, and sent her off to bed while I headed down to take care of a sick preschooler.

I know I lucked out with my teenagers. So far, they still like my husband and me. In fact, they still model their behavior on us. I guarantee you if I'd heard how she comforted her brother that night, it would've been exactly what I'd say. They crave responsibility and often thrive on it.

My struggle is finding the balance. Where is the line between teaching them to be a grown up and letting them be a kid a while longer?

The hard thing is I suspect that darn line is moving around. Not only is it vastly different for every child and age, it is different from day to day. Sometimes it's movement can be measured in minutes. At times, I realize I've heaped too much responsibility on and other times I've let the load become too light. Tracking our proximity to this child-teenager-adult line is often near impossible.

But even I knew midnight sick duty for a four-year-old jumped far over the line. Despite what my sleep addled mind whispered in the moment.

Dinner tonight, however, will be up for you-should-know-how-to-do-this grabs.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Not my finest trait- The Reluctant Baseball Mom

A Baseball Mom by protest. That is what I am. My kids asked passionately, I relented. I wish it were my favorite thing to do: go to three 1 1/2 hour practices a week and two 2-3 hour games a week, almost all right over dinner time, all so I can watch, if I'm lucky, 1 minute of performance by my child. But try as I might, it just isn't MY thing.

Still, I go. I try to watch when it is my kids' turns. I try to notice things to talk about on the way home. I try to smile and appear like I am enjoying myself. I'm pretty sure my kids know better, though.

It would help if things went a little easier.

First some definitions:

Scrimmage: A mean trick where they turn a drop-off-and-leave-the-child practice into a game-you-must-stay-to-watch, at least part of, even though it isn't a REAL game.

Scrimmage BONUS: Peter is working so I get the job of being the parent who stays. For some unknown reason I decided to bring my youngest two children with me. Extra fun that he worked every night this week which meant I got to run all three kids in baseball to their practices all week.

Scrimmage DOUBLE DOWN BONUS: Is there some Law of Baseball that the temperature, hovering near 70 all day, must DROP and the wind must PICK UP during games or scrimmages?

So we are at the scrimmage. My six-year-old, Joseph, wants to know if we can go to the Concussion Stand. Well, it does feel like you've been hit in the head when you see the prices. It is another unwritten Law of Baseball that you buy food at the Concussion Stand, so I buy nachos and a pretzel. I also get two cups of hot chocolate to counteract the falling temperature. My 4-year-old, Matthew, proceeds to dump half of one cup on my jacket, while I am wearing it. Joseph manages to dump half the other cup on the ground. Maybe we were all hit in the head.

Actually last week I WAS hit in the head at a game. Luckily it was after the ball hit the ground and bounced.  But still, getting hit in the head did not foster an appreciation of the game.

After some time at the nearby playground with the younger kids, we head over to watch some of the (not really a) game. My son stands in out field. He stands at second base. I'm 90% sure he never touches the ball. You see, a lot of the kids are just learning to play in the kid-pitched league. That means many of the pitchers are new. That means almost every kid on base is there for a walk and almost every run is the result of stealing to 2nd, 3rd, and home plate. I think there's an average of 3 actual hits a game.

My son has taken note and decided that his chances are higher of getting to base if he stands there and never swings. The pitcher will get to 4 balls before he gets to 3 strikes. It would be easier to correct him if he weren't correct. (I asked him and I am right. He did the math and liked his chances.)

After 5 1/2 innings (rules are flexible since it isn't a real game) and an extra 30 minutes past the scheduled time, it is over. I am cold, hot-chocolate-ed, tired, and hungry. As we head toward the car, Ethan chatters excitedly about his scrimmage, his two runs, and all the nuances in the game that I seem unable to pick up.  When I look at his face, lit up with excitement, I think maybe I could learn to love the game a little more.

Have you learned to support your children in things you have no interest in? Does it get easier? Any clues on how I can be a better sport? I've done baseball for at least 3 seasons and can't seem to enjoy it. I can tolerate other sports, but baseball is SO BORING.