Friday, December 11, 2009

Puppy Power


Yesterday I had to take Hannah and Brandon into the mall. Yes, you read that correctly. The mall. With kids. In December. Two of those three are on the "things that make Jenny curse" list - I'll let you decide which two.

We were there because Brandon HAD to have a white button down shirt for his choir concert the next night and I had been avoiding this trip like the plague for weeks. Shopping with my son is like one big scoop of annoying with frustration sprinkles on top.
"Hey buddy, here are some shoes that look cool."
"Yeah, but they are too shiny."
"Brandon, here are some nice jeans in your size."
"Yeah, but the pockets are fancy."
"Brandon, how about I kick you in the rear end unless you agree to this shirt?"
"Yeah, but then you would be a horrible mother."

So,on this day we went into four or five stores looking for one boys white button down - size 10 that was just right. Only it wasn't Brandon being picky this time. It was me. You see, we were not just in any old mall. No. We were in a mall that, well, how should I say this...didn't cater to boys who wear white button downs.

Anywho - after much grumbling and complaining (from me) we finally found our shirt and headed towards the exit. I was tired from the day and the shopping and grumpy doesn't really begin to describe my mood. And that's when it happened.

Hannah spotted it first. The saddest place on earth next to glue factories and clown colleges. Yes, I'm talking about the mall petshop. She begged to go in. She had been dragged to every boys department in the mall and she looked at me so pathetically that I agreed. As I followed her in, I saw something that instantly made me forget how horrible I had been feeling and forced the sound, "Awwww..." out of my body. People...I don't make that sound. Ever.

His name was Mr. Puddles - at least it should be. He was a chocolate brown long- haired daschund puppy with light brown paws and eyes that make you tilt your head and raise your eyebrows at the same time. He must be mine. Nevermind the fact that this would be absolutely the worst time EVER to get a dog, or the fact that my husband would probably not let either one of us in the house, or the fact that I know better than to support petshops and the puppy mills they probably come from. He looked at me and said, "Hello lady. You are mine and you know it."

I think he'll look awfully cute in my stocking. But we might need a place to crash Christmas night. Any takers?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spicy Hot Marriages or Indigestion?


I hope everyone had a fantabulous Thanksgiving. I know that we did. We had a houseful of guests including two (fairly) well-behaved dogs and would you believe that no drama was to be had? Of course you wouldn't because that kind of Thanksgiving only exists in Unicorn Land where laughter echos through the valley of lemondrops and skittles spray from the outstretched arms of care bears.

Our Thanksgiving included a runaway mutt, a turkey frier that simply stopped working mid-fry, and a "burst pipe" under the sink that after much wringing of hands turned out to be a loose pipe in need of a good tightening. Add all of this to the fact that since the Atlanta flood of 09 we have had to move the home office HQ to the dining room table, and you've got a pretty good indication of what this week was like.

All in all, we kept our cool and actually enjoyed each other through the craziness. Now that the leftovers have left the building and extended family members are back in their proper setting, things can get back to "normal" around here.

Which brings me to the purpose of my post. I would like to let you all know about the first ever ScreamFree Marriage teleseminar. Our friends at Matrimojo.com are hosting an interview with Hal and yours truly where we'll chat about the upcoming book, ScreamFree Marriage. If you're interested, sign up here. We'd love to hear from you and address any questions you have on making your marriage better as we head into this holiday season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seth Godin is ScreamFree


I love me some Seth Godin. He just knows his stuff. His blog post today - as it is every day - is about online marketing...and life. It is remarkably ScreamFree and I think it's worth your time.

He is discussing the best ways to LOSE an online argument. I think his rules are pretty applicable for OFFLINE arguments as well...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One, Small. Change


So, I'm one of those people who can easily go all day long and ingest one cup of coffee in the morning, one diet coke at lunch, and one glass of wine at night. I know, I know, it's horrible. In fact, if the house is especially quiet at night, you can hear my kidneys crying softly to themselves.

So, in an effort to be healthier and set a better example for my kids (who, regrettably are following my footsteps) I am trying to drink more water. I know it sounds like an easy thing to do. And for those of you out there who always carry a water bottle around with you and "just can't get enough" of the liquid nectar of the gods - shut up. Don't judge me. I wish I could be like you - all perky and...hydrated. But alas, I struggle. Mightily.

I've tried flavored pouches and I've tried the stupid looking milk jug size sippi cup. I've bought every single type of trendy water container known to mankind with the hopes that it would inspire me to guzzle the stuff. But they don't. The truth of the matter is that I get intimidated by the sheer amount that I'm supposed to drink. Conventional wisdom says 2 liters a day. A TWO LITER BOTTLE FILLED WITH WATER??? IN ONE DAY???? You might as well ask me to drink the contents of my bath tub. Here's a straw Jenny. Go ahead. You can do it.

It struck me the other day that many parents feel this same way about changing their way of dealing with stress. They've been yellers for so long - or conflict avoiders - or overeaters - you name it - that they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of change. I get that. I really do.

I actually made some progress this week with my new habit. I decided to but the 2 liter image out of my mind completely and focus on one small cup instead. I chose a nice little tumbler (a longhorn one of course) and filled it about halfway when I first woke from bed. Drinking that little glass of water was a breeze. Then I filled it halfway again. Every time I switched activites - from the computer to a meeting, or on my way to carpool - I drank my little glass of water. Before I knew it, I had met my quota and it was only mid afternoon. I was more thirsty that day than I can ever remember.

I know I've got a long way to go in this department, but at least it doesn't feel impossible now that I'm trying it one small change at a time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Reason to Clean???


Let me start this post by saying this. I am not a clean freak. I do not have a cleaning schedule. You cannot eat off of my floors (well, I suppose you could, but you would be taking your life into your own hands if you did). But I will say this - when I am feeling agitated, depressed, or stressed out...there is nothing that makes me feel better than a good cleaning session.

There's something about the clean, fresh smell of a newly scrubbed kitchen that makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I think I inherited this from my mother who does what I call "scrub therapy". To this day, you can predict her mood based on the ferocity with which she attacks her kitchen counters.

At any rate, I ran across a short article in Time detailing an interesting fact related to my thoughts here that I wanted to share. As it turns out, most psychologists agree that washing is an effective way of alleviating guilt. (Hmmm....new consequence for the kiddos, methinks....)

A team at BYU wanted to see if this hypothesis would work in reverse. Could you regulate ethical behavior through cleanliness? They conducted experiments involving Citrus scented Windex. As it turns out, participants were much more likely to act with kindness and charity once being exposed to that smell versus (wait for it....) a room scented with "fart-spray".

So, the moral of the story? Bust out the cleaning supplies and do some scrubbing WITH your kids - and the benefits will go far beyond a squeaky clean countertop.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Willing vs. Wanting

There is a book that I love called The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth, Ph.D. It is a fantastic read and it encompasses way more than money management. There is one section that I'm re-reading because I desperately need to do so.

It is called "Willing vs. Wanting". In it, Nemeth says, "You can be willing to do something you don't want to do. You can have all sorts of opinions and distracting thoughts and still be willing to take action when it's necessary." She claims that successful people are the ones who are willing to do the things that they sometimes don't want to do.

Well that's no fun. But it is helpful and most of us do it on a daily basis with our parenting. Most of us are willing to set consequences and enforce them even though we don't like doing so. And most of us are willing to stay up late into the night with a sick little one even though we'd rather be counting sheep. Frankly, we wouldn't even think twice about it.

So, here's the million dollar question. How is it that we can recognize the value of willing vs. wanting with our children, but we neglect it when it comes to ourselves? If I don't want to exercise, you'd better believe that I'll find plenty of reasons why I "can't". Don't have the right work out clothes. Don't want to take two showers today. Didn't make a new playlist on the old ipod. Just ate two pounds of chocolate from the halloween stash and I wouldn't want to kill a good sugar buzz.

How much happier and more fulfilled would we be if we treated ourselves to this bit of wisdom? I don't know, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's in a Name


I ran across this little article and thought it was worth sharing. It is written by a mom of a seventh grader, so I immediately related to it. In it, she talks about the shifting monikers that our children give us. Sometimes we are mamma, mommy, mom, or my personal favorite.. "MOTHERRRRR!!!!"

Check it out for a giggle.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Power of Nostalgia


Hey troops -
I ran across this website this morning and spent way too much time laughing hysterically at the various poses. I think what thrilled me more than the actual pictures was the way in which I was transported to my own youth in looking at them.

In 3rd grade, I was utterly obsessed with Star Wars (for the record, I said I was a "Luke Skywalker girl" because all my friends said that we would look cute together, but I secretly yearned for the dark and mysterious Han Solo as evidenced by my 18" action figure I kept under my pillow). I used to bring my Darth Vadar mask/figurine carrying case over to Jimmy Murphy's house and we would spend hours in his backyard recreating Tatooine out of his mother's flowerbeds, which I'm sure she appreciated.

There was real magic in those action figures. I would save my allowance for weeks so that I could go to the store and pick out just the right new character to add to my collection. Would I go with the coveted Boba Fett with the rocketlauncher strapped to his back or would I round out my cantina collection with Greedo, Jaba the Hut's lackey who threatened my Han? The choice each month was excruciating.

I love thinking back on the girl that I was then. 8 years old, a mouth full of braces and not a care in the world. It wasn't long after that summer that those action figure days were over. I moved on to smurfs in an attempt to be more girlie and started chasing boys soon after that. So, it's small pleasures like stumbling upon this website that allows me to visit that girl, if even for just a moment.

I miss her. She was spunky and creative. She wasn't worried about mortgages and tonight's dinner plans. And then I catch glimpses of her in my own children when they don't know I'm watching and I realize something. That's the way it's supposed to be. Because I do take care of those adult issues that aren't nearly as fun as posing Luke and Leah in questionable poses (something I actually went to confession for after finding out they were brother and sister) - my own kids can be silly and carefree just a little longer. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Confessions of a Homework Hover-er

I know. I, of all people,should know better. Having more anxiety about my child's grades than she does isn't a good thing. But for some reason, as the stakes get higher for my daughter (who is now in the 7th grade), the nagging Nellie inside me wants to be heard more than ever.

Case in point. This weekend, Hal was out of town and the kids and I did the usual - football and cheerleading, chores around the house, church...you know the drill. I noticed that Hannah wasn't doing any school work. That, my friends, is highly unusual.

I asked a couple of times if she needed to do homework and she replied, "There's nothing for me to do Mom." Flash forward to my phone conversation with Hal Sunday night. He asks, "So, is Hannah worried about her bookbag?" Wha????

"What do you mean?"

"Her bookbag. The one she left in my car and is now sitting in the ATL-Hartsfield parking lot. I'll be home Tuesday night, by the way."

My jaw dropped. I felt betrayed and more than a little anxious. I started to think about all the homework she had missed and all that she WOULD miss in TWO MORE DAYS without it. I began to grill Hal on the phone for details (including...I am embarrassed to admit...the exact location of the car in case I went to get the bag) and I started formulating my speech to Hannah about responsibility and getting older. Mid-rant on the phone, I felt a nudge by my side. It was Hannah.

She smiled and handed me a note. It read, "I have it all covered Mom. Don't worry."

After a brief lecture by my loving husband about the importance of staying calm (sometimes I really hate living with a therapist), I hung up the phone. I walked over to Hannah, note in hand.

She told me, "Mom. I was trying to be a grown up girl and take responsibility for my actions. I called my friends to get the assignments I could and I will take late grades for the ones I can't." Then she went back to reading her book.

It's not easy realizing that your 12 year old daughter just acted more maturely than you did.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Chinese Finger Trap


Do you remember these little gems? They probably are called something more PC these days, but they function the same, nevertheless. Put your index fingers in the two holes and voila', you are stuck. The most natural reaction is to pull your fingers apart from each other, but the harder you try to escape, the more restrictive the device becomes.

This happens in relationships too. Playing emotional tug of war with your friend, spouse, or even your child, is exhausting and unproductive. The best way out of those traps is the same way out of the old Chinese Finger Traps.

You do remember how to get out of these, don't you? You do the most counter-intuitive thing possible. You push your fingers together. Instead of pulling apart, you move towards. When you are butting heads with someone (probably pointing a finger or two...), stop pulling away. Instead, make a move towards them - towards understanding their position so that you can have an intelligent conversation rather than a headstrong battle.

Tip of the Day

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short lived.

Abraham Lincoln


As parents, we must continually ask ourselves, “What do I want most for my children?”. Usually, the answer to that has something to do with them becoming happy, well adjusted, confident, kind, self sufficient adults. This of course is a tall order which necessitates a great relationship between the two of you.

And a great relationship cannot be based on the use of force. You might get compliance in the short term, but you will lose respect and trust in the long run. So, think long and hard before you resort to this kind of tactic with your children, because it comes across as desperate and your kids can smell that a mile away.

Want these daily tips sent to you? Go here and sign up!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning to Lead


As it turns out, good parenting really can keep your kids safe. Or at least it helps your chances of doing so. A recent study came out about teen driver safety and the findings are astounding.

5,600 teens were asked to place their parents in one of four categories:
1. Authoritative (high support/high rules)
2. Authoritarian (low support/high rules)
3. Permissive (high support/low rules)
4. Uninvolved (low support/low rules)

The kids who reported their parents as authoritative reported 50% fewer crashes than their counterparts! 50%!!! You can read about the whole study here.

As a parent, we are supposed to lead our children into adulthood. We are supposed to be the authority in our own homes. I think most of us know this, but in reality, few of us practice this. We tend to drift to the extremes where we are either too hard on our kids or too soft on them. Both extremes indicate that we aren't comfortable and confident in our role as a leader.

Finding that middle ground - that loving authority where we establish boundaries and allow consequences to do the screaming for us - is the ScreamFree way. We know that it works. It's good to see the researchers catching up to us. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Attention Walmart Shoppers


I try to avoid Walmart when I can. No, I'm not protesting their business ethics or anything like that - I just don't like the store. Invariably, I'll get to the end of my list and realize that I passed up the pharmacy section, located approximately 4 miles on the other end of the store.

Plus, I just find it a depressing place. Usually. Not the other day. I witnessed something so funny that I think I may have snorted.

It was a Saturday (mistake number 1) around 11AM (mistake number 2) when I walked into the store the weekend before school started (need I say it? number 3). As you might imagine, it was so crowded that I had to wait for someone to finish shopping so that I could use their basket. The aisles were in disarray as pencils, lunchboxes, and the occasional half opened pack of children's underwear lay strewn about. It looked as if a kid had just exploded and there was nothing left of him except his batman underoos.

As I said before, it was the weekend before school started, so the place was crawling with kids. Literally. Babies were crawling in the aisles while tired looking mothers read from school supply lists trying to find wide ruled paper through bleary eyes.

That's when I heard her for the first time. The Walmart Woman - you know, the employee who comes over the intercom and calls for clean ups and extra cashiers. The voice from above who sometimes reminds you of sales and who is supposed to sound like she wants you there in the store. I will just record her announcements in the order I heard them and let you decide what kind of day she had been experiencing...

"Attention Walmart shoppers. We have just opened two extra check out lanes for your
convenience. Allow me to remind you that your children should be with you at all times. Thank you for shopping with us."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Our seafood section is offering free samples of shrimp dip at this time. Come on by. And also, please remember that children should not be throwing bouncy balls in the aisles now or at any other time during your visit."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Please note that not only should bouncy balls not be thrown in the aisles, but they should also not be thrown at other customers."

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Hi. It's me again. Maybe I wasn't clear in my last announcement. Find your children and tell them that just because they can't throw balls INSIDE the store, does not mean that they can ride the bikes for sale into other people's carts. It's rude and it's dangerous. I beg you."

The funniest part is that the only people who even heard her were the ones without children with them! I wanted to find her and tell her that she made my day, but I also wanted to get the heck out of there before I ran into those kids who were apparently terrorizing the store. In the end, I got what I needed and made for the exit, but not before I heard her one last time...her voice thinly disguising her irritation.

"Attention Walmart shoppers. Seriously. You will be held responsible for your children and any damages that they incur, bodily or otherwise. If you need help corralling them, that can be arranged."

At ScreamFree, we preach that you are not responsible for your children and the mistakes they make, but you are responsible to them. But there are some cases when you will be held responsible for your precious offspring. I still say that responsible TO is more important. Being responsible to your children and setting guidelines for behavior before you go in the store - and then following up with consequences if they act up - will help prevent them running through the aisles launching bouncy balls like hand grenades. I'm just sayin.

In all seriousness, I've been there. So tired you can't see straight. Work deadlines and babysitter issues so you have no choice but to bring your kids to the store in the first place. But it's precisely in those times that we all have to rise to the best parts of ourselves and act like the grownups we are called to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Your Time is Precious


I ran across an interesting article yesterday while waiting in the orthodontist's office. I can't remember which magazine it was in, nor can I remember the name of the article (...many apologies, article writer getting no credit for your grand idea...) but I can remember what it said. And I thought it was worth repeating.

It was talking about one simple way to refresh your parenting. It suggested spending one hour doing nothing but simply being with your child. I know that doesn't sound like a radical idea to some of you - especially those of you who stay home with little ones - but every now and again, it's good to revisit those common sense notions and remember why they have merit.

As the author stated, when you give your kids your undivided and agenda free attention, they don't need to seek it in annoying ways so much. I don't know about you, but there have been times when all I want is 20 minutes to myself with a magazine and I can't even find the time to rip out those irritating postcard advertisements before I'm interrupted by a chorus of children needing one thing or another.

I know you're busy - we all are. But you had these kids for a reason, right? Take an hour - heck, make it 30 minutes - set your timer, and just BE with them. No strings, no teachable moments, nothing. Just you. And them. I think you'll find that the more you do this, the less you'll have to worry about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Minutes - A Lifetime of Emotion


I can't decide if I think this video is cruel or funny. It's probably a little bit of both. Some dad captured his kid's terrified and then gleeful ride on a coaster. Sure, this kid will probably be in therapy years from now talking about how he fears vulnerability because 15 million people saw him cry like a little girl, but other than that, I think it's great.

Roller Coasters provide such a great metaphor for life. The thrill of adventure comes with a price - usually sheer terror. But without that fear, without those leaps into the unknown, there is no payoff.

It's hard to remember how scary life can be for kids - there are so many of these hills that they haven't experienced yet. While we can sit in relative comfort knowing that usually things turn out alright, they just aren't as sure. Walking alongside them as they experience the thrills and terrors of life can be just as exciting for us - it gives us a chance to experience that adventure again. And be sure to video precious moments like this so that bloggers all across the world can draw pithy wisdom from your kid's efforts at not-puking.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tennis Anyone?


This has been a banner week for reactivity in the news. First, there was Joe Wilson's notorious "You Lie!" outburst and now, there is Serena Williams' infamous meltdown at the US Open. Surely you've heard about it by now - Serena was down 30-15 in the semifinal of the US Open. She was called for a foot fault on her serve by the line judge which brought her opponent, Kim Clijsters, within one point of victory.

And Serena LOST it. I mean, lost control of all rational behavior. She walked over to the line judge and verbally abused her in an effort to... well, I'm not really sure what she was hoping to gain. But I can tell you what ended up happening. Because she was so upset about losing a point she reacted in an immature way which caused her to ...lose another point.

Not just any point, mind you - MATCH POINT. Watch it here Then, in a press conference, she doesn't even sound remorseful! Her response, "People do way worse things out there."

Ouch. Cringeworthy. She embarrasses herself and takes away what should have been a great moment for Clijsters and the crowd who had cheered them both on. Granted, it was a rough call. It came at a terrible time. But, such is life.

We can't control the bad breaks that come our way. But we can control how we handle ourselves when they do. The truth is, I have probably handled myself just as immaturely at times when my kids (or my husband) "push my buttons", I just didn't have the whole world watching.

It is my sincere hope that Serena learns from this - that we all do. Pausing before reacting can save you a few match points and a whole lot of heartache.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Really?

This week, there was been so much uproar about this speech in the media and out in the blogosphere that it became impossible to ignore. At ScreamFree, we advocate taking a pause before getting reactive in all the things we do, especially when it comes to parenting our children. Apparently, we have a lot of work to do.
Many well meaning parents, got caught up in the tempest and decided not to allow their children to hear President Obama's speech to the schools. From what I can gather, their reasoning had something to do with a fear of "indoctrination" and "socialist ideas".

Now – this is not a blog about politics – this is about something far more important…parenting. So, my main concern as I curiously observed the furious flurry this past week had nothing to do with what the president might or might not say. After all, if I was truly curious, I could simply go to the White House website and read the whole thing in its entirety. My main concern was the attitude of those parents who so vigorously cried foul that their children were being used as targets by the president.

I think that some very well meaning parents missed a golden opportunity. Talk WITH your children instead of AT your children about what it was that they saw. Encourage them to discuss what they agreed with and what they disagreed with in the speech. Instead of sheltering your kids from the big bad world, prepare them for it. That doesn’t include sticking your fingers in your ears and humming to yourself when someone is talking with whom you do not agree.

Teach your children how to disagree with civility, with grace, and with honor instead of with insults. Teach them how even those you may not agree with can, on occasion, teach you something wonderful. Above all, teach them respect for their county, their heritage, and themselves.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Do You Really Want to Know???



Well folks,
I have not posted in many moons and this is why. We are in the thick of book writing time. Our deadline for ScreamFree Marriage is looming - November 1 - and we are on pace to finish a chapter each week.

Not an easy task, I have come to learn.

Many of you are curious as to how we actually work together, how it all happens. And here's your answer. Lots and lots of note cards and computer time. Book writing in the movies looks so much more glamorous than it really is. Rarely is there ever any sort of Zen moment where our fingers just can't keep up with our thoughts. Mainly it's like root canal work. Tedious, painful, and best accompanied with drugs.

Each week, Hal writes his thoughts down and gives them to me. I read them and we white board more ideas together. Then I use note cards to place the different elements that he's created together with the stories and other material that I've collected. Once I have the outline down, I start sewing things together.

Want to know something funny? As I type this, Brandon, Hannah and Hal are watching Young Frankenstein (the TBS version) in the next room. How ironic that I'm talking about sewing different parts of something together....hopefully this book will be something more than Abby Normal.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Odds and Ends




I am pretty much a creature of habit and if I can’t sit down at my own kitchen table with my own ridiculously large cup of morning coffee, I have a hard time writing. I’ve met other writers who thrive on the adventure of travel. They can find time and space to write anywhere on any scrap of paper. They carry around pretentious and overpriced Mole Skin journals and they actually put coherent thoughts together inside them.

Whenever I attempt to be creative away from my trusty laptop, table, coffee combination, I end up either writing pseudo-intellectual gibberish or a list of things I need at Costco. In any event, I haven’t written in a while and I’m sorry.

Life in ScreamFree land has been interesting. Hannah has been at summer camp for two weeks and we all really miss her…even Brandon, although he would never…ever…admit it.

We attended a marriage conference and had a chance to learn from some of the foremost experts in the world - always a good thing. We also found some really....interesting gadgets for sale. Like these hats in the picture.

They are called "focus visors" and they are made for spouses to wear so that they tune out the rest of the world and focus on each other. They are meant to foster closeness and intimacy. Um....I'm thinking that if Hal were to come to me wearing one of these, the last thing I'd be thinking about is intimacy. I'm pretty sure that I'd be running the other way.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happiness is a Red Tomato



Hello readers,

I've been out of touch for a while because frankly, I just haven't felt much like writing. I haven't felt much like doing anything at all, and I figured that I would spare you from the whiny, neurotic little pouter that I turned into for a couple of days.

Well, life snapped me out of my self-made prison today. It took me by the shoulders, turned me around, and made me stare face to face with the most glorious thing on the planet. A single, solitary, red tomato from my very own garden.

Well, it isn't actually MY garden. I am a sharecropper for my widower neighbor, Mr. JD, who loves to garden but can't do the physical work anymore because of his parkinson's disease and his age. So, he provided the seedlings and the kids and I do the work.

I've never grown anything in my life before. This is not hyperbole. I'm dead serious. Houseplants under my care have never lived more than a week. I must omit some secret and deadly aroma that makes plants wilt - that, or they just know that I feel incapable and so they die just to prove a point. Then they laugh at the gates of plant heaven at the moronic woman staring at their little carcasses and scratching her head.

So when JD asked us if we wanted to do this garden thing, I reluctantly said yes because I thought it would be good for the kids. Just like a family pet, this would be a great way for them to learn responsibility. They dug the holes and were a great help...for about a week. Then, like the proverbial "family" puppy, this one became all mine. I've done my research and been overwhelmed with advice that seems to contradict itself. I've debated about which kind of mulch to use and I've fretted about the stupid chipmonks that I see stealing the seeds right out of the ground. Each day, I do something wrong according to plant wisdom, and am surprised that they are still around to take the punishment.

In the end, despite my best efforts to kill them, these tomato plants have produced fruit. They are absolutely full of luscious, ripe, green tomatoes and today - as I opened my door to greet the day, one lovely red one seemed to be smiling right at me.

I grinned like a cheshire cat and ran back into the house to show everyone. Brandon raised one eyebrow and said, "I don't like tomatoes." But his lack of enthusiasm couldn't squelch mine. I was totally entranced by this little gem and I just looked at it for a very long time. What an incredible thing just came out of the ground! And I helped!

In my joy, I forgot all about being depressed and remembered why it's good to be alive. Then I sliced up my sphere of wonder and spent a moment in Nirvana. And as I did, I found myself wondering...is it too late to plant more?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Calgon, Take Him Away...Please


Someone help me out here. Why does my 10 year old son avoid showering like his life depended upon it? Does he think that his burgeoning masculinity will wash off with the soap and be forever lost down the drain? Is he afraid that smelling clean will lessen his chances in the major leagues - a destiny that he is so sure of that he can't really decide if he wants to play pro baseball, basketball, or football?

I really don't get it. What is not to like about showers? Ok, I am probably not the right person to ask that question. I am admittedly a fan. A huge fan. First, there is the hot water. The hotter the better. Then you add good smelling bubbly soap, a wonderfully exfoliating scrubbie, and at least 8 minutes all to yourself. What could be better?

A hot shower washes away all the crud that life throws your way. It is a literal fresh start and a way to let go of life - even for just 8 minutes.

But try telling all of that to my son and you'll get this reply..."Um....yeah. Can I take one tomorrow?" Translation: You are a crazy person who doesn't understand how good it feels to be so dirty that your hair crunches and your belly button sprouts a colony of boll weevils.

Oh well. Maybe he'll grow out of it. At least for now I can take solace in the fact that it is summer and that chlorine kills at least some of the things growing on him that I'd rather not face.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

I really want to write a superficial, funny post right about now...it's just that I can't. We attended a dual funeral today at our church for a mother and her 15 year old son who were killed in a tragic car accident this past Monday.

The Prather family of four was returning from the mother's (Jeanette) graduation ceremony in Florida where she was receiving her Master's Degree. On the freeway, the back tire had a blowout. The father struggled to pull the van over when he lost control and it flipped. Matthew, the youngest son, was killed on impact and the mother died from her injuries a few days later.

At the funeral today, we celebrated their lives and mourned their deaths.

I don't know what kind of sense can be made from this - but I do know that it has forced me to reflect on a few things that I feel compelled to share here:

1. I want to make sure that my living will is up to date. This mother had a clear living will in place which made difficult decisions a little easier for her husband and eldest son.

2. It is good to be an organ donor. Because of her thoughtfulness and generosity, five people's lives were saved the day that she lost hers.

3. Life is fragile. One moment, this family of four was listening to the radio and the next, they were ripped apart. I vow to hug my kids and my husband much more and care about the status of my house much less for as long as I can.

May you have a blessed day with your family and enjoy the kind of simple pleasures that we all too often take for granted.

Peace -

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A New Level of Lame



Hello Readers -

We have finally returned from our venture out West and have (sort of)settled back into normality...whatever that may be. As you all know, Hal and I are furiously writing the marriage book this summer and in order to get anything done, we do our best to keep the little ninos busy. Thus, Brandon is taking a golf camp which lasts from 9-3 and Hannah is attending GACS' Sonshine camp. I wasn't sure how Brandon would hold up in the heat with nothing but golf to do all day (honestly, I can't think of anything worse, except maybe a bowling camp) but when he bounded home fresh as a daisy and asked Hal if they could go play 18 - now - I had my answer.

Dear future daughter in law, I officially apologize for the millions of dollars that my son will spend on this addiction and the countless hours that it will consume. I will, henceforth, keep all of his father's golf magazines so that you will not have to purchase any - as I am not allowed to throw any away, this will be no extra task for me. On those Saturdays and long golf weekends, you can come over and curse me out at your leisure, then we'll go get manicures and eat sweets. Love, Mom

As for Hannah - I think this is her last year to attend Sonshine camp. She is having an absolute blast since four of her close friends are there, but when your counselor is only 6 months older than you, it may be time to move on. It only freaks me out a little that she could possibly be working next summer and so this morning when she came in our room, complaining of a bad dream, I happily scooped her into bed with me and snuggled for as long as possible. I didn't think that it would all happen so fast. She and I share shoes and eyebrow waxing appointments now. Then, yesterday, it happened.... I got a notice about my 20th high school reunion and Hannah said the words that I once said to my mom.... "Gosh, 20 years??? You really are old, aren't you?"

Anywho - we're glad to be back in the land of the sane. Which brings me to this picture. Whilst in LA, Hannah and I wandered into a Juicy Couture store, just for laughs and found this stroller. Yes, for only $450, you too can purchase this status symbol so that everyone you run into can see how ridiculously shallow you are. Don't forget the $120 footmuff attachment. What's that, you ask? Why, you Philistines, a footmuff is a custom made attachment (emblazoned with the Juicy Couture logo and lined with feux fur, of course) that you velcro on to the bottom of the stroller so that your precious princess doesn't get cold tootsies. Hey, you never know when a cold north wind will blow right through the streets of downtown LA. You have to be prepared.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The Runkel clan is visiting the West Coast this week and I must say, I think I can understand the pull of it for so many people. We are all in Malibu staying on the Pepperdine campus and making day trips to LA and San Diego. Hal took a class here last week and will be speaking at a conference here next week. So, the kids and I joined him in between to see the sights.

We first hit the Santa Monica pier, then spent Monday at the San Diego zoo, Tuesday at Legoland, and today, we roam the streets of Hollywood. It has been a blast. Seriously, the weather is ridiculous and the views are sublime. The traffic, on the other hand, makes me want to gouge my eyes out. I don't know how people live here with this kind of congestion. I think the canyons make it feel worse than it is - in a way, I guess I am a Texas girl at heart. I feel claustrophobic if I can't see the sky and on the road to Malibu, you are squeezed into this narrow space with cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. I'm glad Hal likes to drive.

Friday, June 5, 2009

One in Every Bunch


Apparently there are Nazi parents in every sport. I found out last night that Swim Team is no exception. Brandon asked to join this summer. I was upfront with him about what swim team involves and I even shared with him my horrific memories of the one summer I spent as a Lakewood Piranha. Alas, he still joined.

The first meet was last night. We live next door to the club pool....no seriously, right next door...so at the appointed time, Brandon and I walked over to sign in. What greeted me was a glorious chaotic mess of children with sharpie marker all over their arms (if you are a swim team novice like me, parents mark what event the child swims in so that any adult can grab them and put them in the right lane come race time), loud Disney music, and my volunteer duty.

Now readers, I mentioned that I did swim team back in the day. You might think that I knew how these meets worked and I knew which volunteer duties to sign up for and which to avoid. But you'd be wrong. You see, I swam as a kid and in doing so, thought that meets magically organized themselves, much like Christmas, grocery shopping, and laundry.

So, I had the misfortune of signing up for what is called "bullpen" duty. It sounded fun. It was anything but. My job, along with several other volunteers from both teams, was to line up the children for their races. There was a staging area, a series of deck chairs in rows, and then a lane area. In a perfect world, the kids are supposed to know what event they are swimming, go to the staging area when they see the event number posted, and sit in the appropriate deck chair. We check them off and move them forward to the next area.

Sounds reasonable, right? Only there were about 200 kids there, many under the age of 6, who were more interested in playing wall ball or hanging out with friends than getting to the staging area on time. Oh, and did I mention that it was pouring rain the whole time. FOR FIVE HOURS????

It was at this juncture that I met my first Nazi swim parent. She was with the other team and apparently, she runs the bullpen at their meets. She had a small army of minions doing her bidding and never once did I see her smile. She was not pleased with the quality of our volunteers and the job that we were doing, so she took it upon herself to take over.

Now, I'll give her this. Her team was pretty well organized. The older swimmers were in charge of marching the younger swimmers to the staging area on time and her volunteers (unlike me) seemed to actually know the kids - which is a bonus when trying to wrangle them into the right place. Ok. But here's where I just had to laugh. At one point, she walks up to me (I suppose a clipboard makes you look official) and barks out, "Can you get any of your people to actually HELP get your swimmers to the staging area on time? Your kids aren't showing up and my people are having to do your job." Nevermind that I wouldn't be able to tell you which person out here was our coach, let alone who was volunteering for us.

Did I mention that it was pouring down rain? It was ridiculous that we were even out here "for the kids" and now this woman wanted me to run around and herd cats because ...why? Didn't it actually benefit her team if some of our kids missed their race? Wouldn't that give her little army a better chance of winning? Lots of kids went home because...oh, yea..it was POURING DOWN RAIN.

What was interesting was that she had been so domineering in the bullpen since the beginning of the meet, telling our people how we were doing everything wrong, that they ended up not doing much at all...which, you guessed it, led her to get even more angry.

I guess there's one in every group. Oh, well, as long as it's for the kids....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hey Mom, Isn't That Your Weird Friend?


I heard those words today as we were walking through Barnes and Noble purchasing our boatload of summer reading. I have to say that a few people crossed my mind as I turned to see who the kids were talking about.

Then my eyes landed on this book.

Yes, indeed children, that is my weird friend on the cover of this book. His name is Owen Egerton (he's the redheaded leprechaun, front and center)who I've known since college when Hal and I were dating. He is no less strange today than he was then, but the internet has made all of that silliness worthwhile.

Readers, allow me to introduce you to a wonderful website and a hilarious book called Dadlabs: Pregnancy and Year One

These guys know how to speak the language of "guy" and they're not afraid to do it.
If you are ever in need of a good hearty laugh and some helpful advice for those first few years, you MUST visit Dadlabs.com. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away..I hope


So here we are, exactly 2 days into summer vacation and I am already wondering what momentary lapse of reason caused me to believe that I could work from home whilst the munchkins were at large.

It's not as if my line of work requires any sort of concentration or quietude..oh, wait...that's right...I'm supposed to be writing a flippin' book!!!

I am not upset with the kids. They are just being very 12 and 10. But I am upset with my lack of discipline. The only way that this is going to work out is if I plan WAY ahead and don't allow things like this morning to upset me.

What happened this morning? What didn't happen is a better question.

After informing the children that I would be off limits for the next two hours to write, I decided to whip up some mac and cheese so that come lunch time, all they'd have to do was zap it in the microwave. After the noodles were ready, I realized that we were out of milk. 30 minutes later, I'm back from the store and ready to start my writing session. Only now, the stove suddenly isn't working. Checked the breaker box. Still not working. OK. Plan B. The noodles are done, so I'll just pop them and the "cheesey" part of the mixture in the microwave, have Hal look at the stove when he gets home, and get started on that writing.

Only now, the microwave isn't working. Checked the breaker box. Still not working.

SO, I fixed sandwiches and finally made my way back to my office to sit down and start writing. Only now, I'm so flustered that the last thing I want to write about his how to stay calm in the midst of a storm.

So, readers, I'm turning to you to vent. Thanks for listening. And if anyone knows a good appliance repairman, I'm all ears. I'll be in my office, not writing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Silenced the Lambs

So readers, this afternoon I did something so brave, so fearless, that I feel as if I could take on the world and actually win. I faced one of my biggest fears today. I looked death in the eye. I went toe to toe with a giant.

What exactly, you ask, did I do?

I cleaned out our backyard shed.

Dear readers, this shed isn't your typical backyard shed. This is the mother of all creepy sheds. I'm talking Silence of the Lambs scary. It had ivy covering the front and on more than one occasion, I saw little critters crawling out of it. It was left here by the previous owners of this house and I have only tried to open it once (in two years). When I pried open the creaky door, something fell over and I swear I saw a body part in a jar - ok, so maybe it was an old gas can, but I wasn't taking any chances. I ran for the hills and left it alone...until today.

Every day when I do dishes, I see this eyesore out of the kitchen window and every time I see it, I feel weak. Today, I decided to do something about it. I suppose all this talk about Memorial Day got to me. If all these brave men and women could fight for my freedom, I could certainly tackle this shed. So, I put on long sleeves, jeans, work gloves, and a hat. I grabbed my machete (yes, I have one...doesn't everyone?) and a lantern and headed into the abyss.

I whacked my way through the ivy like Michael Douglass in Romancing the Stone and stood in front of the shed breathing deeply. I banged on the door a few times to give whatever might be living in there a heads up and then I pried it open. The shed was packed - floor to ceiling - with the most random assortment of trash you could imagine. The first thing my eye could make out made me question my sanity.It was a huge glass jug filled with dark brown liquid that had something white floating in it. It was now or never. I went straight for it (with a stick, of course) and pulled it toward me. Bit by disgusting bit, I pulled out half empty paint cans, torn rags, broken tools, rotten seeds - you name it - this shed had it.

Surprisingly, nothing had nested in there save for a few spiders and before I knew it, I had pulled every single thing out. One good clean sweep later and I looked at my handiwork. A huge surge of pride shot through me and I felt amazing.

I put in some standing shelves, moved out lawn equipment in, and passed out from exhaustion. Why do I bother telling you this?

Because every day for the past two years, I have at some point or another, felt heavy whenever I saw this shed. I kept thinking - "Boy, I'd like to have this storage space. If only Hal could do this for me....if only we had the money to hire someone to tear it down and buy another one."

I had painted myself in a corner by thinking this way. I was waiting on some external circumstance to happen so that I could feel good about this area in my yard. TWO YEARS I felt this way. And one afternoon is all it took to feel completely different.

Not too shabby. Now, where is my heating pad?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life Comes at You Fast


Anyone remember those Nationwide commercials where life passes in the blink of an eye? If not, here's a quick reminder...

I thought of this commercial this past Sunday when attending the Milton HS baccalaureate service. Hal was the guest speaker and I, like the supportive wife that I am, went along. It was a beautiful service and I enjoyed a little people watching as an anonymous guest. I watched the graduates hugging each other and grinning from ear to ear. I watched proud mamas and papas snapping pictures and breathing sighs of relief. And I watched my life flash before my eyes.

As Hal stood up in front of those graduates, he spoke about our high school days. And I had a minor panic attack. You see, reader, I remember sitting in those robes. I remember hugging my friends and I remember my parents snapping those photos. Where did the last (cough, cough, ahem) years go? But that's not what caused my shallow breathing and sudden dizzy spell. What brought that on was the sobering realization that my Hannah will be among this enrobed multitude before I know it.

Ok, sure, in six years, but still... if the last (cough, cough, ahem) years went by so fast, won't the next six?

The answer is yes. Life doesn't slow down. In fact, it seems to speed up the older I get. And ultimately, I don't mind. I'm not one of those parents who wants to freeze their child and protect them from growing up. But it did make me reflect just a little how precious the time I do have with my kids is.

I somehow doubt that all of those arguments about dirty clothes and rolling eyes will matter much in May of 2015. I doubt that I'll be grateful for all of those times that instead of just enjoying her company over a magazine, I cleaned out my refrigerator. It may sound trite, but life really does come at you fast.

And while I know it's not realistic to be fully present ALL the time with your kids - heck, that is another problem all of its own - I think that I can do a little better. I can enjoy her a little more and fuss at her a little less... even when she makes it hard to do... especially when she makes that hard to do. Maybe that way, when she walks down that corridor as a high school grad, we'll both be better prepared for life apart.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dumbest Headline Ever...


So this morning, I was flipping through my routine news sites to see what was going on in the world. Apparently, it's a pretty slow news day so far. I read about 6ft. long lizards on runways, what the pope thinks about Obama's speech at ND, and this doozie of a headline.

Are you ready for it?

Why repairs in space are so hard...

Hmmm....I don't know....could it be because THEY ARE IN SPACE?????

Do you mean to tell me that this is the best some crack writer for msn.com could do? But maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe we've gotten to the point as a society where we think everything should be getting easier and easier as we get more and more sophisticated with technology.

If so, then we're headed down a dangerous path. The desire for ease and comfort is understandable. We live in a hectic and stressful world and it's nice when something doesn't take much effort. We get ourselves into trouble when we start thinking that nothing should take much effort. We want quick fixes and simple solutions and we want them NOW.

Case in point: Diet aids. How many informercials have you seen that promise you rock hard abs in less than 5 minutes a day? (For the record, I am just as guilty of buying into these lies...see my post on Tony Little's Rock N Roll Stepper) Some things in life just aren't meant to be easy - because they are also meant to teach us something. Parenting is the prime example.

Kids are messy, they don't come with instruction manuals, and they seldom make our lives easier. If you want that kind of performance, get a crock pot. (No, seriously, get one...they are amazing)

Go against the current here and recognize that some things in life, be it repairing a space station or raising a kid, are just plain hard. They take work, patience, skill, and determination. I think you'll be surprised how much easier that makes everything seem.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure...


Hannah and I went to the nail salon today, trying to squeeze in a little girl time. We have been cutting back on these little extras in days of late, but I told her that if we just got pedicures, we could go.

We usually frequent the same place near our house, although after today, I don't really know why. They are always a little on the rude side and seem annoyed when we walk in, interrupting their afternoon talk shows.

Today was no exception. We came in and told them in very clear terms that we each wanted a pedicure and nothing else. Once we sat down and got started, one of the technicians came next to me and started preparing her things to do my hands. I politely told her that I only wanted a pedicure. She looked at my nails and tried to guilt me into more services by showing me and all the ladies that work there just how ugly my cuticles were. After telling her no about 4 times, she shrugged her shoulders. I thought I was off the hook, but I was wrong.

She turned her attention to my eyebrows, arched her own, and said, "Well, you want your brows done, don't you?". When I told her no, she broke out into laughter and started talking in Vietnamese. I usually try not to be a paranoid person, but I couldn't help but think of this comedian and her take on what really happens when nail technicians speak in their native tongue...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paging Dr. Freud


I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Mother's Day. I know that I did. For once, the cards and flowers that I sent to my significant mother figures actually arrived on time (let's hear it for margin!). I didn't cook or clean at all, I went shopping at H&M, and my kids allowed me to snuggle back into the covers an extra few minutes without sneaking in to ask when breakfast would be ready.

Not bad at all.

So, check off another nice Mother's Day and move on to the dog days of summer. But before we leave this Hallmark Holiday for good, I had to point out something that I found the other day while searching for the perfect card to send.

I was drawn to it because of the cute picture - who can resist little feet, after all? But the message inside made me cringe. On the front it says,
"Lately I feel like something has come between us."
and on the inside it reads,

"I'm cool with that. Happy Mother's Day"

Now, I'm probably reading too much into this, but I am a writer - That's what I do.
Does anyone else find this a little Oedipal? Is this what King Claudius gave Queen Gertruude on Mother's Day - a picture of little Hamlet driving a wedge between them?

Yikes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Motherly Love?


I just read in the news about a local ATL mother and daughter who were just indicted for a hit and run accident that claimed the lives of 5 people on Easter Sunday. WSB reports that the daughter was driving and caused a chain reaction which led to the deaths and then drove off in her BMW.

Here's the kicker...her mother helped her conceal the crash and repair the car. Now, they are both being charged by the authorities.

This is an extreme case of what we warn parents against. No one likes to see their kids go through something difficult. When they are small, they make small mistakes. They may break a glass window, forget their homework, or hurt a friend's feelings. Those mistakes carry consequences with them. If we protect our kids from those natural consequences, we rob them the ability to learn from their mistakes.

As kids get bigger, their issues and problems grow right along with them. It's our job to prepare them for that growth. While we all want our children to be good decision makers, especially as their decisions carry more weight, we don't really like the idea of them becoming decision makers. That is not easy. And it's not supposed to be.

I feel for this mother, I really do. I know she was scared for her daughter and thought she was helping. That's exactly why we at ScreamFree do what we do. We want to help people see that sometimes, the very thing that you do to help your kids just may end up crippling them in the long run.

Don't be afraid to allow consequences, both natural and those set by you, to do the screaming around your house. Remind yourself that it is better to learn hard lessons early in life when the ramifications of mistakes aren't as severe. A little pain now just may save a lot of heartache later on.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Teen's Take on Cell Phone Checks

This was sent in to me by a ScreamFree certified facilitator. It is a letter written by a seventeen year old discussing the pros and cons of parents instituting cell phone checks. Here is her answer as it appears (poor grammar and all)...

If you're going to look in my phone, you'll find things you don't like. period.

if you went through my cell phone right now here's what you would find you wouldn't like: i use profanity. alot. i'm up way past my bedtime. several innuendos with my boyfriend. i failed my chem test. my best friend was drunk last weekend. my guy friends have sex. my friend drove me home from school last weekend even though I'm not supposed to get in the car with new drivers.

there's probably plenty of material to get me grounded in there.
but here's the thing to think about.
a. what puts me in danger? and b. what can you actually change?

keep all this in mind. I'm an ap and honors student. I'm at the top of my class. I participate in extracurriculars. teachers love me. I have conversations instead of grunting at the dinner table (WOAH WE CAN TALK!)

So whether or not you choose to take action about these things, I caution you against taking the hardline "i'm not your friend" approach.
yes. you're not my friend. its pretty clear. i promise. my worst enemy tells me that less.
but just because were not friends doesn't mean you can't be friendly.
my teacher may not be my friend but that doesn't mean she approaches me wielding my cell phone like an ax and yelling were not friends. well, most teachers don't. in this situation, who's the irrational one, you or your teen?

if you decide to take issue with these things, do it by TALKING to me.
ask me why I'm up so late. ask me why I felt I needed a ride home from a friend. talk to me about why it concerns you.

in the process you might discover that I've been such an irrational human being lately because my boyfriend cheated on me and I don't know how to handle it.
I might have failed the chemistry test because its HARD.
most of my behavior has an explanation.

get a good relationship with your kids. they're people too. think of it more as mentor-mentee rather than tyrant-serf :)
I kindof branched off (sorry!, as a teen I reacted strongly)
but my answer to the question: (finally!)

if youre the parent whos going to demand cell checks; your teen just won't text anything they don't mind you reading. or they'll delete it. they'll also constantly complain about you to their friends and want to go to college very far away.
most teens delete their texts/passcode lock anyway. (not necessarily because were hiding something but because surprise: we think you're as irrational as you think we are)

PICK YOUR BATTLES. focus on winning the long term not the short term fights.


Pretty fascinating stuff. I love that she uses the mentor/mentee analogy to parents and their teens. As our kids get older, our job changes from one who protects to one who prepares.

That's the topic of the Hal Edward show tomorrow. Tune in to www.wsbradio.com from 2-4 EST to hear the conversation and call in with your two cents.

I actually think she's pretty articulate and reasonable...although if I were her parent, I'd ground her for abusing the English language.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Yo' Mama


I am currently working on an article for Mother's Day. I'm toying around with the notion that Mothers are excellent at taking care of everyone except themselves. I know that's not a completely new idea, but I'm really fascinated with exploring it deeper.

So, I've been brainstorming and trolling the internet for inspiration. That's when I came across this little gem. It's one in the series of videos that Mr. T put out in the early 80s. I think I remember seeing it long ago, something about those short camo shorts is burned in my memory.

Check it out just for kicks and pay attention to the following:

1. The mother on the far left is proof that most white people have no rhythm.
2. Apparently in Mr. T's world, it is perfectly normal to not only wear 800 lbs of gold, but also to rhyme the words "groan" and "born".
3. The background dancers get a little carried away at 1:18 and decide to become solo artists.
4. The 80s really were the worst fashion decade ever.

So, if you're lucky enough to have a mother, treat her right. If you ARE a mother, treat yourself right as well.

I pity the fool who don't.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Subaru Heaven???

Ok, I will freely admit it. I like commercials. I am one of those sad sacks that makes an event out of watching the Super Bowl ads and, yes... I even go online the next day to read about the best and the worst out there.

I love funny ones, poignant ones, innovative ones - you name it...I am a sucker. BUT, there is one caveat that I do have and I'll hold on to it with everything in my being. In order for me to like a commercial...It has to MAKE SENSE!!!

There is one commercial out there right now that chaps my hide because it comes very close to being great, but it falls painfully short. Yes, I am talking about the Subaru Heaven commercial.

Let me get this straight. My kids come home telling me all about my carbon footprint after visiting a landfill and then turn on the tv to see a guy who probably works at Apple (they either drive Volkswagons or Subarus, right) just leave his old car out in a meadow? HWAH?????

I can just imagine some of the conversations taking place as bitter divorcees try and explain this commercial to their children...

Daughter: Mom, what is he doing? Why is he just leaving it there?

Mother: Apparently, he loves it and he wants it to be with...other broken down Subarus.

Daughter: But he can't just leave it there! Think of how much you could recycle from just the metal on that thing. Plus, didn't he just say that he didn't need a tow even after two days of driving? If he loves it so much and it still runs fine, then why is he leaving it?

Mother: I guess he got a little tired of it. Men sometimes get tired of something they've had for awhile, even if that thing has been very good to then. Suddenly, he wants to upgrade to a newer model. He doesn't want anyone else to benefit from what she still has to offer, so he takes her to an abandoned field and leaves her there with all of the other old broads feeling used and helpless. Then he puts his arm around his new girlfriend and drives away into the sunset while someone else is left to clean up the mess he leaves behind in his wake.

Daughter: Oh. Are we still talking about the Subaru?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Of Dentistry and Drama Queens

Not much has been happening in the Runkel household these past few days. The kids are back at school and Hal and I are slowly but surely digging our way out of a mound of email. We have yet to break down and buy the new washing machine that we know we need. Yes, you heard me right. I am blatantly taunting the laundry gods by knowingly using a machine with a cracked tub. I laugh in the face of the Maytag Man, and I am fully aware that somehow this will catch up to me and it won't be pretty.

All in all, it's been pretty quiet. Well, all except for Sunday's baseball game when Brandon caught a grounder with his face. He popped right up, but his lip decided to stay embedded in his braces. Yes folks, if you're keeping score, that's metal 1...lip 0. Thankfully, an elder in our church is an orthodontist and was kind enough to meet Hal and Brandon halfway between our house and his to perform a wee bit of roadside surgery. He's fine now. His lip is still roughly the size and color of a racquetball, but other than that, you can't tell that anything happened.

In the middle of this small issue, Hannah had an actual crisis. I'm talking an end all be all smack down crisis. What, you're wondering, could it be? A lost friendship? The traumatic start of her journey into womanhood? No, my friends, it was much worse than any of that...

She finished reading the last of the Twilight books.

I, for one, was glad to see this come to pass. Maybe now she would stop asking to visit Forks, Washington for summer vacation. Perhaps now she would stop telling us how vampires really act - how beautiful and intelligent they are. Again, friends, this was not meant to be. For instead of moving on to another tween dream series...she started reading the first one all over again this morning.

Oh, to be 12 again....or not.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Top 10 Things Parents of Teens Want...

Hal just took a survey in his ScreamFree Liftoff class. Here are the top 10 things that parents who have teens really want...

1. ...some level of respect from my teen.
2. ...to exercise some self restraint because I say too much.
3. ...to motivate my teen more in school work.
4. ....have my teen accept responsibility for his actions.
5. ...for me to stop “losing it”.
6. ...to be able to communicate better with my teen.
7. ...to get rid of his attitude (ornery, disrespectful, aloof, entitled).
8. ...to find the right balance of friend/relationship/discipline.
9. ...to figure out effective and appropriate consequences to address behavior.
10. ... did I mention respect?

I'll keep you posted on what Hal says about these issues in coming blogs. Let me know if you've got a concern that wasn't on this list.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Between the Hours of 8-5

Why do repairmen even bother telling you that they will be at your house between the hours of 8-5? Why don't they just say, "You'll wait for me all day and the one time that you absolutely have to leave home to pick up your kids from school, I will pause by the front of your house and then speed away while calling and leaving a nasty message saying that you weren't home and you'll have to reschedule."?

I'm just sayin' - it seems to happen that way.

Thankfully, my husband was able to come home early and meet Mr. Fix It in my stead. Yes, my adoring, fantabulous, brilliant man (who I just found out actually reads this blog and was none too happy with the crack about his handyman skills)saved the day yet again.

Alas, my greatest fears were realized. I DID have to pay a guy $70 to come out and tell me that I need a new washing machine. Not only is the tub cracked, but the transmission is broken. When he opened up the belly of the beast and showed me the issues, I nodded like I understood what he was pointing to. In fact, all I could see was the crud that had accumulated under the machine. There were corn kernels, melted chapstick tubes, something that resembled grey jello, and (gulp) mouse turds.

It might not be totally rational, but I believe with all of my heart that those freakin' rodents somehow ruined my washing machine. It wasn't enough to cause panic and wreak havoc whilst they lived here. No. They had to sabotage my machine to top it all off. They're probably sitting around a big hunk of cheese having a good laugh about it right about now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Do It Yourself - Or Not


We came back yesterday from a week in Houston and today began the journey back to normal. School was back in session (thank you sweet Zeus)and I had ample time to work on the old taxes and start on mount st. laundry.

After wading through a waist high - I am totally not even kidding - mound of smelly, dirty vacation clothes, I started load 1 of what I hoped would be many. Alas, twas not meant to be. After five minutes of bubbly bliss, I noticed a steady stream of water seeping out from under the machine. How could this be??? How could she let me down when I needed her most?

I tried to pretend that nothing was happening - stuffing a towel under her in the vain hopes that she was joking. But she was not to be denied. She mocked my "band aid" and spat out more water.

I have been married long enough to know that fixing appliances is not something that my husband was wired to do. Nevermind the fact that his father was an air conditioning repairman and a mechanic in the air force. That gene just didn't make it down the pipeline. I gave up the fantasy long ago of the sexy "do it yourself" type of guy. My guy is more the - give me the phone and I'll call a guy - type of guy...which is fine by me. Except that money is tight and I hate to pay someone to come in, repair one hose, and charge me $100.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I did what any college educated, liberated woman would do..I turned to YouTube. I wish that I could tell you that I figured out how to fix my washing machine for the price of a movie ticket. But that would be a big fat lie. I did find out how to open up the machine so that it is rendered totally useless and disable several important looking wires. I also found this, which made the whole ordeal worth it. Apparently, THIS is what women really want out of a washing machine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Deserve that Pool



Ok, so yesterday, my sister in law's house was filled with relatives. One of them happened to be the cutest 4 year old I have ever seen outside my own chromosomal likenesses.

Her name is Anna Claire and this was our conversation as we looked out at the beautiful pool in the backyard:

AC: I deserve that pool.

Me: Really? You deserve it, huh?

AC: Yep.... What does "deserve" mean?

Me: Well, you deserve something if you've been worthy of it.

AC: Oh. What does "worthy" mean?

Me: Um, It means that something is valuable or precious.

AC: Ahhh. What does "valuable" mean?

Me: (sigh) Ok. Let's think about this. You have a dog that you love very much, right?

AC: Oh, yes...

Me: Ok. That dog is valuable to you. That dog is worthy of your love and affection.

AC: (loooong pause) (looks again at pool)(nods head convincingly) YUP. I definitely deserve that pool.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holding My Breath

The kids and I are in Houston this week for Spring Break (family is here, in case you're wondering). Hal is soon to join us and just called me with a vital task to undertake.

I am on point to purchase U2 tickets at 10:00 EST. Hal has always been the purchaser of tickets, so he just gave me a crash course in ticketmaster protocol. T minus 9 minutes and counting. I am sweating with nervousness because of all the events in the past 5 years, this is the one that he most wants to attend. Wish me luck...

Friday, April 3, 2009

From Russia with Love


In these two weeks here, I have learned a few things about Russian culture:

The Russian people…

1. …are deathly afraid of drafts.
Apparently, there is no greater sin in Russia than opening a window and allowing fresh air to come into a room. They believe with total sincerity that drafts cause illness. For this reason, they keep their homes roughly the temperature of hell and refuse to sit on the floor or go barefoot for fear of getting sick. You can share eating utensils all day long and cough directly into your hands, but God forbid you should crack a window to relieve yourself from the oppressive heat emanating from the radiators that never stop pumping out blazing hot air.

2. …really like paperwork.
We must have filled out the “required forms” for our lost luggage about 5 different times. At one point, I made the egregious error of crossing out one word and replacing it with another. When I turned this form in to the customs official, her eyes narrowed and she wouldn’t even touch it. She pushed it back to me with her pen and said with total disdain and in broken English, “Lady. Fill out again. No mistakes. Do right this time.”

3. ….do not believe in keeping their dogs quiet.
During our stay at the retreat center, there were no less than 40 dogs barking 24/7 in the Siberian countryside. Maybe they were trying to keep warm – who knows. All I can tell you is that I have never hated a living creature more than that first night when I was trying to fall asleep. I am not talking about an occasional bark or even a chorus you might hear in the middle of the night. I am talking full on crazy kennel barking. Constantly.

4. …have an incredibly tall and beautiful female population.
When we got off the plane in Moscow and began making our way through the terminal, I thought that maybe we’d accidently landed on the set of a James Bond flick. I kept expecting a young Sean Connery to come around the corner, lighter in hand, for the cigarettes of the high heeled leggy beauties peppering the terminal. In America, I am fairly taller and thinner than the average woman. In Russia, I am a troll.

5. …are just as interested as we are in having great relationships.
For all the differences I noticed, one thing is certain: There are far more similarities. After a few short hours there, I was able to see that we all really want the same things. Peaceful homes. Happy families. Good friendships.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coming Home!


We are on the last leg of our trip home and words cannot express how glad we are of that fact. The trip was amazing and I don’t regret a single minute of it, but boy is it nice to be on American soil again. The sheer fact that I can read the street signs and recognize the things that I eat is enough to make me kiss the ground.


We actually saw our luggage for a brief moment yesterday. After being held up in customs for 10 days, we were able to rescue it from the clutches of the Russian government with only minor complications. We walked into the “left luggage” office in Moscow yesterday – and stifling the urge to ask where the republican’s luggage was sent, we set about filling out the necessary paperwork.

Ahhhh.....luggage.....glorious luggage....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The weather here is rather nice today. There is still plenty of snow on the ground, but it is around 38 degrees and getting warmer by the minute. Sonia says not to get to comfortable, though. It is scheduled to snow Monday. Apparently, the weather can turn on a dime here and it often snows well into June. Have I mentioned how much I love Atlanta?

Today is the last day that I can use a computer until Monday, so if you don't hear from me, there is no need to panic. We will be in the outskirts of Barnaul at a retreat center for the ScreamFree seminar. We have met some incredible people here already and will soon meet about 150 more. I think my favorite person thus far is a ginormous ex pro footballer named Arkasha who could crush me with two of his fingers. He is the most gentle person I have ever met.

I also had to break some difficult news to Hal this morning: I am quite smitten with a new man. His name is Zachar. He has flaming red hair and the most amazing dimples. We played games late into the evening and the way that he looks at me melts my heart. If I had my suitcase (which I still don't BTW) I would stuff him into it and bring him home. He'd fit, because he is barely two years old.

Gotta run - off to the Aeroflot office to try and shake down a Russian airline worker or two and track down our bags.

Day FIVE Sans Suitcase

The saga continues. No luggage and no straight answers from the authorities. We had to fax all of our passport and visa information to the airport only to be told that we now need a Russian authority to do it for us. I am not holding my breath on that to happen.

We leave tomorrow morning for the retreat center and I'm just thankful that the outfit I wore on the plane is one that I like.

We spent today doing some sightseeing around Barnaul. Everywhere you turn is a different statue of Lenin. I'd show you some pictures, but my USB cord is packed safely in my luggage. The snow is all melting and you have to be really careful where you walk. If you get too close to the street, you get splashed with black slush. If you get too close to the buildings, huge drops of metling snow falls on your head. Now I know why Russians wear those big fur hats.

The women here are very stylish and rock the leather boots with stilletto heels. Most of them are tall anyway, so I feel very short and a bit on the dumpy side. It doesn't help that I'm wearing baggy lounge pants that are crispy from the accumulation of crud they've seen since Sunday.

The past two nights have been spent training the leaders of the seminar. Hal is learning how to work with his translator, Ivan. We quickly found out that most things translate very well over here, with a few minor exceptions. All of Hal's stories and/or jokes about eating out or eating too much are met with strange looks. The average Russian does not eat out EVER and walks everywhere. The flat where we stay is four flights up (no elevator) and no one has a car. Everyone we've met is slim and trim. Did I mention that I feel dumpy?

Well, time to hit the hay. Big day ahead of us. First stop, the Barnaul airport to fill out more paperwork in the hopes of again seeing my makeup and clothes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shivering in Siberia

We've managed to find some internet access here in Siberia, so I thought I'd give a quick update as to what's going on. Hal and I arrived yesterday morning after being en route 27 hours. Our Atl plane had mechanical problems and we had to be re routed to Paris instead of NY. Apparently, our luggage decided to go on to the Big Apple without us and is now enjoying a matinee of Cats.

We don't know when it will return. So, Hal and I have been in the same clothes since Sunday and are without our winter coats, hats, and boots. That's alright, because it is warm here. Almost 30 degrees.

The people are great and the food is fantastic. I probably won't fit into my jeans whenever they do get here.

Das Vadanya,

jenny

Saturday, March 21, 2009

So long, farewell...


Well, folks - Here it is. The day before we leave for Siberia. A trip that brings a literal irony to the title of this blog. I thought I was ready until this morning when I realized...

I have to pack for 10 days in one small suitcase for -5 weather and 4+ days spent on a plane all the while having maybe 2 days' worth of internet access. Bottom line???

Totally NOT ready.

Thank God the moms are here to save the day. Marmie, Sally and Mimi are my heroes, making orthodontist appointments and homework happen in my absence. I know all will be well, but I anticipate missing the heck out of my kids and vice versa.

Hal and I are taking a video camera to document the whole thing and I plan on writing blog posts daily so that you can be with us on our journey. Don't know when I'll be able to post....but that's another issue. Should be fun. Will be cold. Wish us luck.

*For those of you who don't know, Hal and I are off to conduct a 4 day seminar in Barnaul, Siberia for a group interested in ScreamFree. We'll be talking to parents, teens, grandparents, church and community leaders, professors of psychology, and college students on all things concerning relationships. Should be fun!