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Sunday, March 30, 2014

These movies will change your life (or not)

Until five days ago, it had been several months since I'd seen a movie in a theater. But last week I saw two new films. The first one, "God's Not Dead," came highly recommended.

I knew it was in the theaters for a short time. So I picked the kids up from school one day last week and headed to a matinee. I'm not sure what I expected. Annie was convinced I was trying to orchestrate a conversion experience of some sorts. About 10 minutes into the movie, Charlie leaned over and whispered, "Mom, this is going to be one LONG movie." 

Why do Christian films have to be so bad? The acting was ok. The script was mostly heavy-handed and predictable. The bad guys were almost unbelievably jerkish. One thing that really bothered me about "God's Not Dead" was the negatively stereotypical portrayal of Muslims (controlling and violent) and Asians (defiant of God and singularly focused on success).

Annie said "That movie needed a comic relief." And she was right. Maybe that's what "God's Not Dead" needed -- to not take itself so seriously.  "Mom's Night Out," another Christian film I've had the chance to preview, got its point across without smacking the viewer upside the head with the Bible. 

Would I see "God's Not Dead" again? Probably not. Am I glad we went to see it? Yes. There was one particularly moving scene when a woman with dementia had a haunting moment of clarity. That scene was one of the things we talked about in the car on the way home. After I acknowledged the film's drawbacks, I asked the kids what they thought about the messages in the film. We talked about the old woman's assertion that sometimes the devil lulls us with an easy life so that we don't feel a need to turn toward God. Even the next morning on the way to school, Robbie brought up the movie and we had another discussion about things we had see on the screen. 

Did "God's Not Dead" change my life? No. But it might change yours. I've talked to several people who felt very moved by it. Maybe you will be one of them. 

The second movie I saw this week was "Farmland." This is a documentary, set to make an appearance in a limited number of theaters in May. The movie profiled six young farmers and spoke of their commitment to their family farms, their industry and to bringing food to America. It answered questions about corporation farming, pesticide use, organic farming and animal cruelty and raised questions about public policy and the future of agriculture in America.

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Watching "Farmland" made me want to hug a farmer. Honestly. It also made me think about where our food comes from and where it will come from in the future. The average age of today's farmer is mid-60s. So who is going to run these farms and grow our food when those farmers retire or pass away?

"Farmland" also gave me an appreciation for the amount of work and faith that goes into farming. The planting, the watering, the tending, the praying for good weather, the harvesting. It negates the image of farmers as country bumpkins and showcases how intelligent -- book smart and field smart -- these people are.

I have to admit to having a long-held crush on farmers and the lives they lead, so maybe it was easy for me to find myself enamored of this film. That's a possibility. Did "Farmland" change my life? Hmmm...I'm not sure exactly, although it did make me think differently about where our food comes from and how that might (or might not) change in the future. Will it change yours? Maybe. Visit the Farmland website to watch the trailer (not shareable here) to see for yourself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How did the adulteress get in here?

The scene: A desperately-needs-to-be-cleaned-out Toyota minivan

The characters: An 11-year old boy in the backseat. A 40-something Mom driving.

The boy: "Mom, what is The Adulteress about?"

The Mom: "What did you say?"

The boy: "The Adulteress. What's it about?"

The Mom -- mentally canceling cable television, wondering what bad Lifetime movie he'd been watching, making note to check the older kids' Google histories and otherwise getting worked up that an 11-year old would be asking about a trollop: "Adulteress? Where did you learn that word?!"

The boy: "My Picture Bible."

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Silence, please.

I'm going on a silent retreat this weekend. I did the same thing last year and found it to be a transformative experience. Going in, I was afraid. Not so much of being silent, but of what I was going to hear in that silence. And this is what I heard:

While I won't be talking, I will be praying. If there is something I can about for you, leave a message in the comments or e-mail me at 4thFrog70 (at) gmail (dot) com. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Soccer field jitters

 photo 455aa1e2-5453-4a9f-a206-4709722ed49f_zps4239bf14.jpgRobbie had his first soccer practice of the season this week. He had to go straight from after care at school to practice because both Mike and I got hung up at work, which meant he didn't have a soccer ball or cleats with him, neither of which seemed to bother him.

We arrived at the field and I walked him over to the team. The coach knew him from last season when Robbie and his son had been on the same team. I turned to walk away from the field and was kind of surprised to feel my stomach sinking a little bit to leave him there. It's not like I was going far away -- just to the parking lot, only for 60 minutes. But I found myself feeling a little anxious for him and oddly as though I'd left a little piece of my heart out there on the soccer field.

"Please have fun," I thought. "Please make a friend. Please come running to the sideline after practice sweaty-headed and dirty and smiling." And then I began to think about what I would say in case he didn't have fun or make a friend or come off the field smiling. "It's only the first practice. Next time you'll know someone." 

I watched practice from my car and realized that the uneasiness -- all 2 minutes of it -- was all on me. Robbie didn't have one bit of hesitation. He kicked and ran and participated in the drills. I was happy that he was wearing his favorite neon green hoodie, so I could easily pick him out from the crowd of boys.  

How did this happen to me, this anxiety over leaving my 11-year-old at a soccer field while I sat 100 yards away? I never had those fears for Charlie. Maybe that's because when it comes to sports, Charlie has never known a stranger. If there is a ball involved, he is your friend and is game for whatever game you've got. I don't think I've felt that way about Annie. She can be shy when she first meets someone, but she is such a confident spirit that any shyness melts away easily. So why do I fuss about Robbie?

He is my baby. I swore I would never treat my third child any different than I treated the other two. But I do. Not only is he my baby, but he's my spectrum kid. My pervasive-development-disorder-not-otherwise-specified boy. So that means in some instances, he needs kid gloves. But as I sat there watching his neon green hood bobbing up and down the field, I realized this kid has changed. Right under my nervous and watchful eye. He has grown and matured. While I was sitting there praying he would make a friend, he was out there praying he would make a goal.

I guess its time I start letting go a little. Loosening the reins and watching where he will go. And I realize (and my older two will be oh so happy to hear it) that he's also grown up enough to be held to a higher standard. To be expected to pull his weight more than we've required of him in the past. 

I can't promise not to get nervous or overprotective again where Robbie is concerned. But at least maybe not on the soccer field.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Still an Irish Wannabe

If this post looks familiar to you, then you've been hanging around here for a long time! It's a timely re-post from several years ago.

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It's St. Patrick's Day again and here I am, a melting pot American, longing for a fiercely loyal heritage. I've always been a bit jealous of friends who wear their lineage like a badge -- who celebrate St. Patrick's Day or Cinqo de Mayo or Oktoberfest as part of their connection to the motherland.

Of all of the ethnicities I wish I could be, Irish is the one I most pine after. Maybe it's the adorable brogue or the stiff-skirted dancers or the stew. Maybe it's just that St. Patrick's Day is such a fun celebration, made more festive, I think, by the fact that it often accompanies the coming of spring when people are looking for a reason to come out of hibernation and be social again.

I wear green on St. Patrick's Day. I try to cook something festive -- for the past several years we've had green pancakes for breakfast. When the kids were little, we always went to the St. Patrick's Day parade. And I love to listen to all the naughty tricks the leprechaun pulled at school.

But I don't pretend that I am Irish. I didn't name my kids Killian and Seamus and Colleen. I wouldn't feel right about hanging out at the Golden Ace where the real Irishmen in town go on St. Patrick's Day.

In the vernacular of Harry Potter, I suppose I would be considered a "mudblood" with a mix of Swiss and German in my heritage. At least I've got the good chocolates on my side.

I can pretend to be Irish a little by marriage. Though my father-in-law's family is from England, my mother-in-law was Irish. Her mother was a Dunnivan who married a Donovan. Mike's grandfather once enraged an army official who asked him what his wife's maiden name was.

"Dunnivan," he said, his voice thick with a Boston accent.

"No," said the official, "What was her last name before she married you?"

"Dunnivan," the young Mr. Donovan replied.

"Not her name now. Before you got married, she was Miss...what?"

The way the story goes, it was quite the Abbott and Costello moment that almost landed him in some hot military water for insubordination. Dunnivan. Donovan. Potato (Irish, of course). Potahto. Whatever it is, Erin go bragh!

Monday, March 10, 2014

My kids were bottle-fed and lived to tell about it

I read a blog post today called "You're not a bad mom." The author used her little corner of the internet to call a truce between the breast- and bottle-feeding moms and to tell her own story. While my "babies" are 17, 14 and 11, I was instantly transported back to the newborn days when I, too, felt betrayed by my own breasts. The short story is that I breastfed every one of my babies until they were good and dehydrated.

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Of course I planned to breastfeed my firstborn baby. That's what all good Mommies do. And breastfeed I did, until she was well under her 10 lb. 4 oz. birthweight at her one-month check up. Well, that just wouldn't do. I rallied my troops, determined to sit around my home unclothed from the waist up and hook myself up to a milk machine to encourage more flow.

This happened to occur about the time we were due to take Annie on her first roadtrip, so I dutifully packed up the breast pump and headed to Ohio. I don't remember exactly where it all fell apart, but I think it was shortly after that weekend trip to Ohio that I abandoned breastfeeding all together, feeling at once relieved and humiliated that my baby seemed only to be satiated after a bottle full of formula.

Round 2. That came when Charlie was born. I was ready this time. This boy would be a breast man. I'd had such a beautiful, New Age-y birth experience (even if you do count the 40 hours that led up to the actual birth), a beautiful breastfeeding experience was sure to follow. Then he turned dangerously jaundiced just a day or so after we arrived home, which earned him a 5-day stay in the NICU, where breastfeeding was forbidden because it was (allegedly) contributing to the extraordinarily high levels of bilirubin in his blood.

When he was discharged from the NICU, I rented an industrial-strength behemoth of a breast pump. This was not the rinky dink one-horned pump I'd used when I was trying to make Annie a breast-fed baby. This was a Cadillac of a lactation machine. Unfortunately, it did not come 100% guaranteed.

He was sleepy, too tired to care to eat. So I stripped him naked, hoping the breeze would keep him awak to eat. I held him to my breast and then the other and back to the first for what seemed like ages. And still he wailed. And lost weight. But I was not going to wave the white flag that easily. I called the lactation consultant from the NICU. She was so nice, so encouraging. She was pretty sure a supplemental nursing system (SNS) was the cure to this ailing situation.

To paraphrase Ouiser Boudreaux from Steel Magnolias, the SNS is a boil on the boob of humanity. You hang a flask of formula or breastmilk from your neck. A tube leads over to one of your breasts, where you tape it down. When you try to get the baby to latch, you shove the tube in his mouth at the same time. Just typing this is giving me PTBFS -- post-traumatic breastfeeding syndrome. One night, after Charlie and I sat up watching 6 back-to-back episodes of the Brady Bunch on Nick at Night, trying to get him to take 2 ounces of liquid gold from the plastic flask, I had had enough. I just couldn't keep up.

So I called the lactation consultant and told her as much. That's ok, she said. She had a bottle that would do the trick. It would train his suck and we'd be in breastfeeding euphoria in no time. "Great," I said. "Leave the bottle at the desk and I'll swing by to pick it up."

That's when she told me she'd have to teach me how to use this bottle. Now, I don't claim to be brilliant, but I am a college-educated woman. The idea of having to be taught how to use some new-fangled bottle was more than I could manage. As it was, I was beginning to resent my baby every time he cried out of hunger. I feared "mealtime" and was ready to call it quits. So I abandoned the "breast is best" dream and dove headlong in to postpartum depression, only in part because I considered myself a failed mother.

Ever the optimist and suitably medicated, when Robbie came along, I was all set to give it another college try. I had the lactation consultant on speed dial. I had the mammoth breast pump rented and all set up. I had laid in a large supply of Mother's Milk Tea and fenugreek and some prescription whose name escapes me now.

We brought Robbie home on a snowy Sunday. On Monday, Charlie was singing into one horn of the breast pump.

"Charlie!" Annie, all of 6 years old, yelled. "THAT is not a microphone! THAT is a BOOB sucker!"

By Thursday, I was on the phone with the lactation consultant. Fussy baby. No real feelings of let-down. Not a whole lot of wet diapers.  "How long should I pump on each side?" I asked.

"Well, until you feel empty," she said. "Probably 4-5 minutes per side."

"I just pumped 20 minutes on one side and got 1/2 an ounce." To which she replied, "I'll bring some samples of formula today." We decided that I am one of those women who truly is incapable of breastfeeding. It seemed like such a crisis of identity then. Now, it's just a story I tell on a blog I share.

I'm not really interested in a historic review of where I went wrong. I tell the story because it was such a guilt-laden experience that I call still recall it with so little nudging. And I tell it because I have 3 terrific, healthy children. Three kids who today, still don't care if I feed them from a pizza box or from a casserole made in my very own oven.

Friday, March 7, 2014

So that's how the kids are doing it these days

"Mom, I need to tell you something, but I'm nervous."

That's not the kind of conversation you really hope to have on a Wednesday morning before school.

"Ok," I said, trying to not let my mind fly in 37 different directions. "Just tell me."

"Well, I'm just worried about how you'll react. I don't want you to be mad."

Having now reached at least 24 different mind-bending directions, I said, "Annie, I'm sure I'm not going to be mad. Is it something bad?" 

"No, it's not bad. And it makes me happy. But you can be judgmental."

Red alert! Red alert! Mind approaching explosion status and stomach trenched firmly in my shoes.

"What?! Tell me," I'm saying trying to remain calm and doing a decent job of it, if I say so myself.

"Well, first, I'm not a lesbian and I'm not pregnant."

So that knocked out two of my most prominent thoughts, one of which would have been way worse than the other. 

" what is it?"

"I'm in a relationship. With a boy."

Me, sitting on the couch smiling at the cuteness of all this...and she was so nervous.

"And he lives in Arkansas."
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Truthfully, I didn't exactly see it coming, but I wasn't entirely surprised. She's mentioned this boy before. Luke. That's his name. 

"You're not mad?"

And I'm not mad. On one hand, a daughter with a boyfriend who lives 9 hours away is much easier to deal with than a daughter with a boyfriend who lives 20 minutes away. There are no real worries about broken curfews or canoodling while the parents aren't home. But there were a few concerns I raised. 

"Are you sure he's real? And he is who he says he is?"

She explained that yes, they met on Tumblr over two years ago and began leaving each other messages, re-blogging each other's posts. She was "introduced" to his Tumblr by the friend of a friend. Over time, they exchanged cell phone numbers, texting each other and eventually FaceTiming.

"You're not sexting, are you?" Hey, a mom has to ask these questions -- and then do some investigating to verify the answers. "NO! Mom!" 

I believed her and went on to the next concern. "There will be no secret meetings, no telling me that you're spending the weekend with Kallen and then running off to meet this boy somewhere. If it gets to the point where you two want to meet in person, then we will talk about that with his mom and dad and work something out."

"And I'll need his Tumblr address and I'll be looking up his Facebook account as well. If that's how you met him, that's how I'm gonna get to know him." 

"Well, you can't really judge a person by what they post on Tumblr," which was my invitation to launch into the "people will judge you by how you conduct yourself -- online included -- and you should not post anything that you would be uncomfortable with your priest or your grandmother seeing."

A day later, after I'd already come home from work and put on my pajamas (and after I checked out this Luke person on Facebook), she came to me, phone in hand, and asked if I could meet him right then. I hesitated; I was wearing pajamas for gosh sake. But she gave me the "please, Mom" and I could tell it was important to her. So I said yes. 

Then, before I could say "online dating," he was on the screen in front of me. I asked about his grades (decent), what instrument he plays in the band (saxophone), his family (he's the youngest of 5 kids). It was a brief conversation, but long enough for Annie to be completely embarrassed by what she termed my interrogation. 

And my conclusion? He seems like a nice enough kid. Based on our FaceTime conversation, the Facebook stalking I did and what Annie has told me about him, Luke seems pretty ok. (Though now it occurs to me I didn't do a Google search of his name to see what skeletons fall out.) 

Am I freaked out that my kid has a relationship that began on one side of a computer screen? Not really. I have plenty of people in my life I consider to be friends who I only know because we happened to be on the same web page at the same time. In fact, there is a group of women I got to know before Annie was born. We all hung out on the Parent Soup Jan/Feb/Mar '97 board on AOL. We still keep in touch on a daily to weekly basis via a Facebook group. I've met a few in person, the others I know only through the magic of the internet. But I consider each one of them a friend. 

So the fact that my daughter has a "boy from afar," as I've taken to calling him, doesn't worry me, at least not at this very early stage. It will require me to step up some of my monitoring habits and maybe someday I'll feel the need to meet the parents via FaceTime as well. The times, they are a'changing.

If they ever want to meet in person, I did warn Annie of one very certain thing. That when it comes time for this young man to meet Mike, he will without a doubt thrust forth his hand and say in a pseudo-deep voice, "LUUUUUKE. I am Annie's father." 

Because you know, some things never change. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

We'll be eating (organically) well this week

 photo FF03FD35-30B4-4EFC-9C41-8939448A0A0F_zpsjzonx4tk.jpgI came home on Wednesday to a happy was my Green BEAN Delivery produce box.

I'd forgotten that it was coming. I was selected to participate in an Indy Social Media Moms promotion with Green BEAN Delivery. In exchange for a free small produce box, I agreed to provide an unbiased review of the grocery delivery service. (Hang on, it's not all about me -- read to the end for a GBD discount code.)

How it works: When you sign up for GBD, they will send you a notice a few days prior to your delivery, letting you know what will come in your bin. If you're due to get avocados and you don't like avocados (or something else in the bin), you can make changes up to the weekend before your scheduled delivery.

I was supposed to get celery, but we already had celery in the fridge, so I did some switching around to get portabello mushrooms, a red pepper and a potato instead. It did take some fiddling with it to figure out what items would fit in the bin for what I was swapping out. Note: It would have been easier if I had read the instructions on the web page first.

Once I hit "submit," my job was finished. All I had to do was walk up to my front door and bring in the bin of goodness waiting for me.

What you get: Green BEAN Delivery brings organic, local produce to your door. You can also add locally sourced meat and other items, though my bin for this promotion was strictly fruits and veggies. I'll admit, I don't often buy organic. But I do feel better about feeding it to my family. And I felt GREAT about not having to go anywhere to get it.

 photo 32c3288e-9981-45ae-b13c-e821ada07668_zpsa2a98fa3.jpg photo 583BC57A-72BA-44D6-A892-5AA645E1BAFC_zpsjlfoblnw.jpgWhen the bin arrives, everything is packaged in plastic or brown paper bags and the bin is kept cold with styrofoam insulation and a giant freezer pack. There is also a packing list that has been hand-checked. As a customer, I liked the idea that there was a real person responsible for making sure what I had approved for my bin was actually going in the bin.

I'm guessing that same person was giving my items a once over to make sure the produce I received was good quality. And it was. My apples were not bruised. Annie looked at the portobellos and said "Those are beautiful." Want proof:

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Now the hard part...what I am going to do with all this stuff?

When you are not much of a cook, a bin full of fresh fruits and veggies can be kind of daunting. But I started thinking about what I would do with my bin when I sat down to customize it. And here's what I came up with:

Portobellos, red pepper, onion... These will all be sauteed with chicken kielbasa.

Blueberries... will go into vanilla yogurt and/or (depending on how many are left) pancakes.

Apples and pears... My plan was to just eat these straight up, but I saw a recipe on Pinterest today for an apple/pear crumble that looks delicious.

Potato... As wrong as it seems to microwave something organic, that's what I'm going to do with the potato one day this week for lunch at work.

Grape tomatoes... will go into lunches for Annie & Charlie this week.

Cauliflower... either mashed (as in faux potatoes) or more likely roasted with meatloaf.

That leaves the broccoli and the local leaf lettuce. I'm not sure what to do with those. Obviously the lettuce can be made into a salad (boring...). I'm leaning toward a baked potato bar or maybe some kind of stir fry for the broccoli. Maybe both.

The cost: A small produce bin, which is what I received, costs $35. I asked my sister who shops organic regularly if that was a good price for everything I got. She said it was a smidge higher than what she spends, but that the convenience of having local, organic produce delivered right to her door would make it worth it. In fact, she said she was going to check out Green BEAN Delivery. So it's good news for her that I have a coupon code to share.

The deal: If you're ready to give Green BEAN Delivery a try (and you live in these delivery areas in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri), go to the website and use coupon code 154FBml for $15 off your first order -- good for new customers and reactivations. But hurry. The code expires next Sunday, March 9, 2014.

Disclaimer: As a member of Indy Social Media Moms, I received free product from Green B.E.A.N. Indiana in exchange for my unbiased review. ISMM and Green B.E.A.N. Indiana are not responsible for the content of this post.