Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Work, Don't You?

Of course I work!
The latter part of June and the whole month of July has been “camp time” for the kids, translating for me, to - in and out of the car all day, everyday. In summers past, I’ve thought, “Oh, I should have sent my kid to this or that.” This summer, I made up for it. Between the three kids, they’ve done swimming lessons, a course called Seeing is Believing: Virtual Worlds, vacation bible school (attending and volunteering), field hockey camp, and now art camp. And, my middle daughter is graduating from a program at church that has required some extra duties to earn all her badges before the big day.

We’ve also managed to visit Grandma and Grandpa twice, entertain eight year old cousin Ethan for a week, and to hit the pool and beach a number of times.

With all this running around, my grocery store routine has been severely altered. Like some of you, I usually make the two hundred dollar trip (give or take) when the fridge and the pantry begin its descent to vacancy, but the trip didn’t happen during the past two weeks. Instead, I have been dropping in and out of the very convenient grocery store at the edge of my subdivision to get the needs of the current and next day.
My social status is really climbing with the employees at the store!

On one of my trips, a General Mills person is displaying samples of Fiber One Bars. I don’t know what the official job title is, but you’ve seen them; they go to different grocery stores to check on the shelf placement of their product and to set up promotion tables. Ms. General Mills is trying to do her job when one of the grocery store’s employees tell her to move a cardboard box out of the way - in a demanding tone. She gets flustered, then turns around to see me eyeing her Fiber One Bars. I’m a perfect target. She gets to vent while seducing me with the goods.

“How rude of him!” she says.

“Here, take one of these.”

“How can I set up without an area to unpack!”

“Have you tried the strawberry? Here,”
as she passes me the third bar.

“It’s not even in the way of the customers!”

“This is a new flavor. It tastes a little like coffee. Here!”

Realizing I’m on a roll with these breakfast bars, I say, “I like the chocolate flavor.”

She tears open the oats and chocolate flavored box, and hands me another.

“People can’t even do their jobs without being harassed! You work, don't you?”

Hmmmm….I’m standing here ogling the Fiber One Bars, in my shorts, T-shirt, and flip flops. My tired and hungry kids are waiting for me in the car, probably wondering why it’s taking Mommy fifteen minutes to buy some tomatoes and flatbread.

Do I burst her bubble by telling Ms. General Mills that I’m a stay-at-home mom, and reciting the stay-at-home mom motto: “Yes, I DO work and it’s a hard job!” Do I take the risk of seeing her disappointed look when she realizes that I can’t relate to having to deal with arrogant people everyday? Or, maybe I would have gotten the patronizing pat on the back, and, “Yes, you do! Your job is harder than mine!” (And that’s okay. I don’t mind hearing that.)

I took the high road (I think), and simply said, “Yes.”

She was grateful for being able to talk to me, and I appreciated her friendliness and generosity.

As I was inching away from her, she handed me several pages of coupons, with an expiration date of 12/29/09. I’ve hit the jackpot.

“Here Ma’am (or was it Darlin’?). The bars are on sale now, and if you use the coupon, you’re only paying about one third of the price.”

She was right. I dashed over to the cereal isle and bought a few boxes.

When I got back to the car, Hayley whined, “I’m hungry. What took you so long?”

I reached into my purse and pulled out one of my seven Fiber One Bars and said, “Here, take one of these.”

Are you a stay-at-home mom? Do you have a standard answer to, “What kind of work do you do?"
Stay-at-home mom or not – all comments welcome.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blood Donation

My first time giving blood was probably in 1979. The blood donation truck parked along the side of the building where I worked, making it easy and convenient to participate. I had no hesitation or fear; of course, being twenty-one years old could have been a major factor in my calm demeanor.

The process was simple: answering health related questions, having my temperature, blood pressure, and pulse taken, getting my finger pricked for a drop of blood to be tested for the level of hemoglobin, and then the actual donation.

I sat in the comfy chair and watched everything. For those of you that are a little squeamish, I’ll skip the play-by-play. Sometimes, I wonder if I missed my calling of being a doctor. Hmmm

Actually, it’s a very clean and precise procedure, and most people would be able to handle it.

During the next fifteen years, I donated frequently for periods of time, and other times with longs lapses in between. Most of the donations were set up by employers, but I have memories of seeking and going to other sites, too. I still have a plastic card listing my donation dates when I lived in Maryland. At that time, I gave via the American Red Cross.

When I married and moved back to Virginia in 1994, the donating stopped. I let all the distractions of life move blood donation to the back burner, or off the stove completely. The combined twenty-seven months of pregnancy and the combined forty-four months of breast-feeding kept me away from the blood drives. After reclaiming my body, it still took several years to get back to it.

A local television station (and others) sponsored a large blood drive for Virginia Blood Services that was held in a vacant building once occupied by a defunct retail chain store. The station advertised heavily. Every time I heard it, I thought…I should go. The kids were in Vacation Bible School – why not?

So I went.

It was almost the same as I remembered, but the differences, I can gladly say, were improvements. The advances in computer technology made it very easy to answer questions from a video, using a headset. Just listen, read along if you like, and tap “yes” or “no.”

Another difference was the amount of black people donating. In the past, I saw black people donating, but not many. Could it have been because the donation centers were not in areas heavily populated by black people and lack of advertisement/incentive, or was it “a cultural thing?”

This time, it appeared that at least sixty percent of the donators were black, and of all ages. That told me that (paraphrasing), if you build it, they will come. (Field of Dreams -1989) Even the blood collection specialist (phlebotomist), a black woman, was proud of the attendance response based on some comments she made to me.

And lastly, a “real” meal awaited me after the donation. I was treated to a buffet of delicious fixins to make a burrito salad worthy of a thumbs up from Chipotle. The donut from Krispy Kreme wasn’t bad either. What a pleasant surprise; I was expecting cookies, crackers, and juice. Can you tell that I was starving? Yum-meee!

I am eligible to donate again on September 7. Don’t forget to send me a reminder!

Donating blood saves lives.
Can you donate? Do you donate? Will you donate?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thirty Minutes of Solitude – Lost!

Ethan, my eight year old nephew spends a week with us during the summer. He goes to Vacation Bible School (VBS) with my two youngest daughters, and my oldest daughter who volunteers.

To get him, I drive north on I-95 to meet his mom, Jackie, as she drives south to meet me at our destination, Potomac Mills Outlet Mall in Northern Virginia.

Our watches synchronized, our cell phones charged, we talk by phone as we are ready to leave our homes. Because Jackie has to travel on the infamous 495 beltway around Washington, D.C., I assume I’ll get there first, which is fine with me. Actually, I am counting on getting there at least 30 minutes before Jackie. I have visions of sitting in my vehicle in complete solitude, away from all recognizable people, and away from the temptations of doing something at home and of answering the phone – a quick, little respite.

The drive is peaceful, but the anticipated destination of the COSTCO parking lot (preferably in a shaded area) with a book in my hand, is where I am specifically waiting to be. My water bottles and nuts are packed, along with my sack of four books and my book journal. I don’t know whether I’ll be in the mood to read, write, snooze, or just sit and be quiet. I am prepared for all the alternatives.

You may be wondering why the thirty minutes are such a big deal. Well…it’s summer and I’m a stay-at-home mom! Of three! Someone is always home! 24-7!

(As impressed as I am with homeschoolers, that job is probably not in my future.)

Don’t spank me.

I DO enjoy being with my kids, but after a couple of days of nonstop, sunup to sundown activities with them, I need to “not hear anything,” if only for thirty minutes.

Since school ended a month ago, each child has had numerous needs: badges need to be sewn on, shin guards and mouth guard purchased, sleepovers planned, piano and swimming lessons attended, etc. Even Layla the dog had a need – to be spayed. Hubby took care of the “transportation to and from the vet” duty, but her two days of recuperation (including a couple of pee/poop accidents) was “Mommy’s duty.” I had to give her lots of hugs and TLC.
* * * * *
So I’m close to the shopping mall, but I don’t know the exit number.

I’ve been up and down I-95 a zillion times…I don’t need the exit number.

The huge Potomac Mills sign can be seen a mile away – and I see it. The problem though: where is my exit that will take me to the other side of 95?

As I’m coming out of my “listening to the radio zone” to take the exit, I become confused.

Don’t want to pass it!

Oh, just take the next exit and figure it out from there.

Here I go!

Hey, I’m passing my “up in the sky Potomac Mills sign!!”

Oh, no!!! Could I possibly be on the HOV lane?

(sad and deflated) yep…there goes my 30 minutes…umph!

I call Jackie to explain and to ask where the HOV lane ends.

“I think it ends at the beltway,” she says.

I tell myself, “Take a deep breath Anita. Yes, you have to drive eleven miles north to the beltway (the reformed Mixing Bowl) and then eleven miles south (in the parking lot of traffic that you can see on the other side) to get Ethan. And yes, you have totally blown your respite, but it’s okay. Take another deep breath.”

Ironically, Jackie sees me on I-95, toots the horn, and we end up getting off at another exit together. Ethan gets in my car, and we continue heading south – back home.

Home, Sweet Home

What caused you to miss an exit and what did it cost you?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stepping Stones

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: children allow you to have a second childhood. Entertaining my kids, teaching them, and exposing them to new things, inspire me to do things that I probably wouldn’t do if I didn’t have them.

My first stepping stone was made in 1999. I can’t remember what prompted me to make it. Had I seen a decorative stepping stone in a neighbor’s yard? Did I see the kit in the craft store or in a Family Fun magazine? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. What I do remember is having two toddlers and wanting them to somehow be involved in their daddy’s Father’s Day gift.

The stepping stone kit was purchased at Michaels, the arts and craft store. I had a choice between a gray stone and terracotta colored stone, which was made with the regular cement and an added pouch of the terracotta mix. I chose the terracotta. Also in the kit was a plastic round mold, beige rocks, a craft stick (when I was growing up, it was a Popsicle stick), and a mixing stick.

The process of making it went well, considering it was my first time. I found a plastic bucket, poured in the dusty cement (cough, cough), added the water as instructed (which was not enough to get the right consistency), mixed, added more water – a tablespoon at a time – mixed, and poured and scraped it into the mold. Somehow I got it just right; it was solid enough to do the lettering with the craft stick and to place the girls’ hands on it for the imprint. Hayley and Kelly, then three and a half and fifteen months old, placed the rocks and pressed, with a little guidance from their meticulous mother.

Father's Day gift - 1999

There would be seven more stepping stones. Over the years, the girls and I have experimented with different shapes and decorating pieces. We’ve learned that:

- adding too much water causes our letters and imprints to disappear; that we have to use paper towels to sop up excess water on the stone, or that we have to come back to the process later after some of the water in the stone has evaporated,

- buying a plastic container at the dollar store and reusing it year after year, is better that using a good mopping bucket that has to be cleaned afterwards,

- cement from a hardware store that is typically used for sidewalks or whatever, contains all sorts of pebbles and stuff, and is difficult to work with…never again,

- using photographs under glass to decorate the stone is tedious, and that the sun eventually fades the pictures,

- breaking tiles to use as lettering is also tedious.

2002 - each petal has toe prints: 2 petals for Hayley,
2 for Kelly, 2 for Mallory

There was no stepping stone in 2000. My new baby was one month old. Couldn’t waste valuable sleep time on crafts.

I don’t know what happened to the 2001 stone. Is it buried in the yard somewhere? I thought we made one that year. With three children 5 years old and under, maybe I was a little delusional. I can almost swear we made that stone, despite the lack on evidence, i.e. a stone.

2003 - made from hardware store cement
I dared to make three!

Notice the lettering from broken tiles -
I'll bet you can guess who did most of the work on these stones!

2004 - toe prints again

2005 - The faces of the girls, under the "flowers" have faded.

"Happy Father's Day" (The blue letters are still there, though).

The glass over the K (for Kelly) was gone,
so I fixed it with a new K and new glass.

Too much work for this one: a so-so stone.

2006 - The petals are thumbprints.

2007 - a new shape; rotation of a square

2008 - flipflops, and the addition of Layla, our dog

As you can see, all the stones were made for my husband as a Father’s Day gift. He says it’s his favorite gift each year and tells us not to worry about getting anything else for him other than cards. He was especially adamant this year when he made that statement, but when the iPod touch showed up on the gift table, he didn’t tell us to return it.

The annual stepping stone is a fixture in our lives now; we may even step it up to twice a year. And now that I’m decluttering, I know where all the previously used, various shaped molds are stored, along with all the leftover rocks, cut glass, tiles, and lettering. We can omit the kit next time and just buy the cement.


Have you made a stepping stone lately, or are you willing to make your first?