31 May 2010

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

This past week, my friend Jessie and I set out on an adventure. We decided to take advantage of the YMCA's child watch feature and head to our neighborhood Y to get some exercise and then to take the children swimming.

We knew that the Y to which we were heading did not have a pool [hereafter to be known as YMCA - 1]. We also knew that the Y to which we have been routinely taking the children to swim does not have the best workout facility [hereafter to be known as YMCA - 2]. So, what the heck, we thought. We'll make it a two Y day.

8:57 am - YMCA-1 is six minutes north of our houses (which happen to be a couple hundred yards down the street from one another). We caravanned the entire six minutes with five children between the two of us (hazard of big-ish families - no carpooling possibilities, really). The children were aware of the plan - Mamas are going to get some exercise in an air conditioned environment - kiddos playing with each other in the child-watch area. Then we'll hop back in the car and head to our swimming Y and hop in the pool.

That's the plan. Sticking to it.

So, the first part of our plan went off with very few hitches. Well, about 25 minutes into our aggressive treadmill walks, we noticed a swarm of no fewer than 9 children heading back to the child watch room to join our five. We were a bit wary of the sweet, older woman having fourteen children to watch, so we cut our walks a bit short, but other than that, so far so good.

9: 31 am So, we load back up into seventeen carseats (or five), spend the nine minutes strapping children in, invariably have to make a trip back into the Y because of an abandoned stuffed animal (benefit of doing things like this with a friend - one can run back in while the other keeps watch for kidnappers or sibling battles), and.... we're off - to hop in the pool.

9: 41 am Head the nine minutes back south, waving at our little neighborhood on the way. Pull up in the YMCA-2 parking lot. Unstrap said seventeen carseats, gather bags of changes of clothes, bottles, diapers, pending exhaustion, flotation devices and waddle into the YMCA-2, scanning our family membership badges, requesting towels, and heading down the wide, low-ceiling-ed hallway to the holy grail of cooling entertainment.

9: 57 am Stopping to drop of Collins at his second Child watch of the morning (trying to teach Eas to swim and hold C at the same time is not good for my sanity or their safety).

Jessie headed with the swimmers on into the pool. After I got Collins settled, distracted him so I could leave without tears, I walked into the pool area to join the rest.

10: 06 am As soon as I did, I saw my eldest hopping into the pool. And a lifeguard heading for her immediately. Was she drowning? nope. Was she disobeying? nope Was she too far from a parent? nope.

Was the pool closing for repairs?

So, there we were, all dressed up (and one of us wet) and nowhere to swim. We creeped back out, gathering up discarded coverups and shoes, picking up confused baby Collins, and sitting down in the hallway, once filled with hope [despite 8 feet of space between floor and ceiling], now betraying its actual intentions - to depress you from the top down.

Other places to swim, we thought? Front yard sprinkler? The other kid friendly indoor pool at a Y doesn't open till noon.

Aah, I have a great idea! There is a new YMCA (hereafter, YMCA-3) that has a saltwater pool. That'd be a fun experience! But, brilliant us, we should probably call first.

10:21 am
Kyle: YMCA-3, can I help you?
Me: Hey Kyle. We were wondering if the pool is open - just for recreational swimming.
Kyle: Well, there is a water aerobics class in there right now - but it will be over at 11 and then the pool is open.
Me: Great. Do y'all have towels or do we need to bring our own?
Kyle: What?
Me: I know some Y branches have towels [like the one I'm sitting in the depressing hallway of right now...], but some don't. Do y'all have towels or not?
Kyle: No towels.
Me: Thanks so much Kyle.

10:23 am. Jessie and I discuss while the children misbehave in the hallway (gathering great looks from passers by). One older (80 ish) woman emerges from the pool area and asks Jessie to please wrap her up in her towel. Jessie obliges, clearly.
We continue to languish in debate. I think our already donned bathingsuits may have been cutting off circulation to the brain.
We finally decide to ride back by home and grab a snack and some towels and head north to try, once again to swim.

So, we load up. By now you get that the unloading and loading process is a long one and so I'll quit repeating all that we have to do....

Drive home, caravanning all the way. Run into our respective houses and grab string cheese, bell peppers, towels, etc. Paul happened to be home on this day and Collins needed a nap, so I asked Paul if i could leave him rather than take him on our ever expanding hotventure. Luckily, my husband is a sweet man and views himself as a equal coparent and so said of course that was fine.

10:47 am - Head back north, stopping to get gas, drop off an outfit a friend is borrowing, and find our way to YMCA-3, 18 minutes north of home.

11:13 am - Unload in parking lot of YMCA-3 (down to four children, which does make a big difference...)

Walk in to YMCA-3.

Woman at front desk whose name I failed to learn, but we'll call her Helga, because it fits, says to us:

"Whoa - y'all aren't here to swim are you?"
All six of us, in almost choreographed chorus, "Why yes, we are here to swim" (Hey helga - why do you think the children have swimming rings around their waists - fashion statement?)
Helga: "well, we don't have family swim time now - or ever, really - we haven't set it up yet"
Us: again in chorus, "groan"
Helga: "well, we just haven't assigned family swim times yet."
Me: "Well, we called before we drove out here and Kyle told us to come on"
Helga: "Kyle doesn't know."
Jessie: "Well, you don't mind if we go look at the pool do you? Just so we'll know what its like in case we want to come back some time"
Helga: [i don't make this stuff up, mind you] "Well, uh, I mean, uh, I mean, uh, I guess - but don't go in the door - just look through the window - we don't want to disturb the lap swimmers"
Us: choreographed stare
As we begin to walk back to the pool,
Helga: "Wait - wait - are any of them in diapers?"
Us: "No ma'am - left the diapered one at home"
Helga, following us as we walk back the 20 feet to look in the pool window....: "well, if they are in diapers, they aren't allowed back toward the pool without a swim diaper on"

It's a good thing that Jessie and I are both generally conflict-avoiders. I can barely stand up for myself if someone gives me back too little change, much less give Helga a piece of my mind. And it's a good thing. Because it wouldn't have been a pretty piece. [Not that Helga did anything egregious - but she said some annoying, insulting things to a group of disgruntled people...]

Incidentally, we went to look in the pool windows. At a pool smaller than any backyard pool I've ever seen. How can you even lap swim in there. Three strokes, One lap, I swear.

As we come out to leave, Helga begins telling us more pool and general YMCA-3 rules, times of opening and closing, history behind their conversion from a Fitness Woman Gym to a Y, etc.
Still avoiding yelling at Helga, we walked out the front doors and sat down. To discuss.

11:27 am
Should we give up? I mean, that's the sensible thing. It is clear to us that God is allowing the devil to test us this morning. We are modern day, stay at home mom versions of Job. Kill all our cattle? 3 ymcas....

Well, at this point, we're all the way in YMCA-3 land, not far from the Y with the great indoor children's pool. The one that doesn't open until Noon. It has a slide for goodness sakes. I mean, we could at least try.

[Side note - I rarely feel sorry for children - I have never seen such sad, dejected faces - My heart was moved to try again AND stop on the way and get them chicken nuggets. The string cheese and bell pepper weren't going to hold us over through to YMCA-4]

So, 11:38 am - Burger King Drive Through Caravan
11:46 am - Rocking along, driving the 12 minutes to get to YMCA-4. Sitting in parking lot eating our chicken nuggets.
12:00 pm - on the dot - walking through doors of YMCA-4

Notice posted, to which front desk Amy (again, I know not her name, but I'm going with Amy) drew our attention:

"The children's pool is closed today. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you."

Luckily, Amy was pleasant, or mine and Jessie's personalities may have transformed into conflict-loving ones. Amy said we could ask the lifeguard if we could get in the lapswimming pool...

The lifeguard was a sweet, meek 16 year old boy who could sense that if he didn't let us in the lap swimming pool, we were going to all six of us melt down. So, we hopped in. The 54 degree water. That is five feet deep at it's shallowest point. Or maybe it was 74 degree water and four feet deep, but still... And no flotation devices allowed.

So, we got to swim. YMCA-4. For about 45 minutes. And shiver.

But, in the end, the fact that we have four different YMCAs in the metro area that we could try is really something for which we should be thankful.

Right? Right? Right?

If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane.

23 May 2010

The Meanest Mom on the Block (Or Why I don't buy fruit snacks)

I had the privilege of being taken out to dinner for my birthday by a group of women I've grown to treasure. Most are women we worship with each week, and they are all fun, funny and kind. And all of them happen to be mothers. Some of one, some of two, some of three.

As mothers do when they gather, we talked about our children. We also talked about a bunch of other stuff, which is a crusade of mine - we aren't just mothers. But, mothering is primary vocation for most of us right now, so it is natural to discuss these little people for whom we're responsible.

It might be breastfeeding or crawling or Tide with Bleach, but there is always something germane to the great task set before us.

And we all have different views about many things. And are able to discuss and even disagree without even a hitch in our collective giddy up. I do it this way, you do it that way, and that's all okay - we are all striving to grow healthy, happy, bright and Godly babies.

One thing we often discuss, and I always get put at the mean end of the spectrum (although I have some company...), is what we feed these people.

I often have mothers, some in good fun and some a bit more horrified, look askance at me for denying a second dessert or a first soft drink or a bag o' chips or some such. I've tried to explain to Ada Brooks and to all mothers and fathers who dare to cross me about it that it is because I love my children that I don't allow any or much of a lot of things out there. But the problem seems to be that people don't understand why that love translates to denial.

[ When Ada Brooks was three, we were in the grocery store, and she asked me if I would buy her some KoolAid Bursts. I said no. She asked why. I said, "because I love you and KoolAid bursts are pure sugar with no redeeming qualities - and it's not sugar God made, but sugar we made, and that much sugar can cause lots of health problems like diabetes" "What's diabetes" and so on and so forth. At the end of this exhaustive, tedious conversation, ada said, "Does Sally's mother not love her?"..... And my answer is of course Sally's mother loves her.... but we are all trying to love you people the best way we know how]

So, why does this love translate to denial of much that is fun and wonderful in the world?

First, the rules. Then, the principles.

1 - I don't buy soft drinks for the kids - or anything other than 100% juice (which i still dilute), organic skim milk and water. They are allowed to have a non-caffeinated beverage (capri sun, sprite, etc.) at Wednesday night church or on special occasions.

2 - We use only 100% whole wheat bread.

3 - We don't buy or offer chips and the like. Or fruit snacks. We buy fruits and vegetables. We taught Ada Brooks to peel her own carrots when she was three and that's what she does for many an afternoon snack - that or a celery stick, string cheese, or banana.

4 - Yes, at birthday parties, church events, other social occasions, we say "sure thing - go ahead - celebrate" Have some ice cream, cake and even cheetos. But, a trip to the park on a random Tuesday is not cause for celebration.

5 - A typical breakfast is bran flakes, cheerios or wheat chex with fruit. A typical lunch is a turkey or peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with fruit or a carrot and then, if they are still hungry, pretzels. A typical supper is green veggies (broccoli or salad, mainly) and whatever we're having, which varies much - but spaghetti, etc.
I reserve "junk" for when I'm unable to be here to cook - I have bible study or girls night out - and Paul and the kids gleefully feast on boxed macaroni and cheese, etc.

Why? Why? Why? Why are you so mean, Mama?


Children in America are fat and.... wait for it....

vastly undernourished.

My favorite education writer/philosopher, Susan Wise Bauer says about television - it's not that it is terrible (it's not great), but every hour of television is an hour that your children could have been doing something else. Basically, something good. They could be outside jumping on the trampoline or building a fort or playing an elaborate game of cousins. (A story for another time).

And I feel the same way about food. It's not about denying them things.... It's about making sure there is always room for the good things. Fruit snacks aren't going to kill a kid. At least not alone.... But what they are doing is filling the kid up. With empty, nutritionless stuff. God made a pear. God is better than Nabisco. He just is. Give the kid a pear!

Secondly, I'm training my children in all areas of life. I don't give them bad television or bad literature or bad manners (we hope), so why would I give them anything less than good food?

You know who else is better than Nabisco? Me. I just am. This is why I don't buy lunchables. (in addition to the fact that the list of ingredients on a lunchable is unpronounceable. And evil...)

Michael Pollan, who is a great writer and correct about most of the things he says, no matter what the conservative reactions against him would like to be, says that we should Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not a Lot of It.

But food is only food if his grandmother (so my greatgrandmother) would recognize it as food. Velveeta isn't food.

I love velveeta. But it isn't food. It's fun. So, I use it for fun - rotel is my ultimate celebratory snack (And yes, i recognize that as someone who prides herself on being a decent cook, I shouldn't admit this, but I'm not going to start lying now).

So, I'm a mean mom. Unapologetically. Dern It.

17 May 2010

Delinquency is my middle name

We're over half way through May and I've not blogged a little tiny bit.

I was out of town for seven/eight days, and I have had mother's day and my birthday (days I wouldn't call successes, but we won't get into that....) (or maybe we will, when I can be charitable and funny, which may be around next mother's day and my birthday)

But, it's been about two weeks since I made this ambitious list of goals, and I feel the need to update so I can see how I'm doing - remember, the key is self-shame into being productive...

1- Clear out digital pictures
F - haven't even begun this daunting project. I can already see that it may get put on
the bottom of the list, but I'm feeling okay about it. It's probably because enough
people made me feel as though it's really okay. Thanks, people.

2 - Print and Frame some good ones (which will involve me asking nicely for Paul to hurry up and repair some frames for me...)
F - see above.

3 - Continue work on healthier family meals menu, so we don't all grow up to be hugemongous.
D - went on vacation for a week, but back in the saddle again!

4 - Write Ada Brooks's history curriculum for next year. She'll be studying the years 1850 forward. Which is a lot. I've got to decide which topics we'll cover, how to cover them, etc. Suggestions are welcome.
C - I'm getting good help and trucking along, but I've got miles to go before I sleep....

5 - Teach the kids to ride their bikes without training wheels.
F - haven't even tried...

6 - Take children to zoo no fewer than five times.
B - been twice - on track to go at least three more times in next six weeks. so booyah.

7 - Take children to hike behind the science museum on pretty days.
F - been at the zoo the whole time.

8 - Teach Eason to swim.
C - Eason doesn't want to learn to swim... suggestions?

9 - Plan birthday celebrations for Ada, Collins and Paul. Ada Brooks wants a baking birthday party... and I'm determined that we will celebrate poor, sweet third child Collins.
B - have saved dates on the calendar! Have created guest list for Ada's baking birthday!

10 - Learn to exercise regularly....
A - I'm giving myself an A because I've exercised more regularly over last three and a half
weeks than I have ever before in my life. Or at least since Camp Desoto in 1997.
We'll see come July if i've kept it up. But for now, I feel good about it!

I feel okay about the above list. I feel like it's an over all "making progress" kind of a report. Some areas need improvement, and others are right on track -

Great trip to beach - will report later!