Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facebook = Time-Waster of the Week


So, here's the thing.

I originally went on Facebook to share photos and get in touch with family and friends.

But lately?

I'm just wasting time.


I'm farming...

And running a cafe...

It's ridiculous, really. Such a poor use of my time. After all, I could be gardening with real dirt instead of virtual gardening... or cooking in my own kitchen instead of some virtual kitchen.

But, see the thing is, on my virtual farm, nothing smells and no dirt gets under my fingernails. And in my virtual kitchen the dirty dishes mysteriously disappear (...along with hours of my time.)

Not so in reality.

In reality-ville, I have to worry about frost and bugs and weeding my garden. And I have to plan dinner every night, wondering whether my kids are going to turn their noses up or compliment the food.

So, maybe my time wasters are really just little fantasies. But now I have to worry about what kind of fantasies I'm having...

[Fantasy farming?!? Seriously?!??]

Man... This Midwest Mom needs to get a life.

- Midwest Mom

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Power of Listening

On Saturday morning, I sat still in my room and listened to the rhythms of our home. What I heard was disconcerting.

For the past two weeks, we've had a houseful of sickies. All of us have been run down or feverish at one time or another. Sadly, the worry and wakeful nights have combined with our physical symptoms to fill our house with crabbiness.

Over the weekend, though, symptoms of the flu seemed to dwindle. The kids weren't feverish or sore anymore, and except for the stray cough here or there, you could hardly tell we'd been sick.

Strangely, though, the crabbing continued.

So, on Saturday morning, I found I miraculously had a few moments to myself. I spent them in silence, listening.

I was horrified. After about 15 minutes, I knew I wasn't the only one who needed to hear this.

So, I brought my younger son to the top of the stairs. He thought he was getting in trouble for purposefully annoying his sister until she cried. (He was, but not in the way he thought...)

I made him sit next to me and listen.

He did. Then he said, "Oh. ... I did that, didn't I?" We exchanged a few words about kindness and changing the sounds in our home, just as my older son barked out an order to someone. I sent my younger son downstairs.

"Tell your brother to come up and see me." In a few minutes, I was joined by my oldest. He rolled his eyes and sighed with annoyance as he plopped down next to me.

He listened. But already the sounds of the house were changing.

There is something wonderful about parenting quietly enough that kids can come to their own conclusions about things. My oldest son said, "No one else is talking in an angry voice." It was true. I asked him whether he was willing to be a friend and treat other people with kindness. He said he would, hugged me, and returned downstairs.

Next was my daughter. After a week of pampering because she was ill, my dear child emerged with a touch of Veruca Salt. "I want it!" had been had been uttered by her a bit too often for my taste. And when her brothers did something she didn't like, she let it be known -- loudly.

I invited her to sit with me and listen. She wanted to do it in my lap. So, I let her and she snuggled in, twisting my hair in her fingers.

We could hear her brothers playing downstairs. They were being kind. She noticed.

As I held my daughter, I explained that she wouldn't get everything she wanted all the time. Life isn't like that. And in our home, the answer to any question that starts with "I want..." is automatically No. I asked quietly how she was feeling. She shared and I listened.

My husband called us to breakfast. So, we descended from our listening place.

Later in the day, I made sure that my crew had plenty of time to run out their energy outside. They had been cooped up for so long, they were grateful to spend the day in the sunshine. They played together with our neighbor for most of the afternoon. The squabbles were still there, but they were fewer and less severe.

I like to think that's because my children were listening to their own voices as they used them. When I took time to listen later in the day, I heard more laughter than discord, and that made me happy.

- Midwest Mom

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


by Lt. Col. John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep,
Though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Please take a few moments today to honor the fallen today. It is important, whatever your politics, to mark days such as this by teaching your children what Veterans Day means. It is more than a day off from school or work -- it is a day to remember those who have given their lives to advance the freedom of others. It is also a day to show that we value all soldiers and their families and to express the hope that arms will be only raised in the cause of justice, at last resort.

- Midwest Mom

My Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day post at the BlogCatalog blog today is part of the BloggersUnite! Who will Stand event. It highlights blogs written by and for soldiers and their families, everyday ways to support active duty soldiers and their families, to support our veterans, and to push for the benefits soldiers need when they come home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Battling The Flu: We've Got it Too

I don't know if we're more sensitive this year or if the flu is stronger, but our family is being walloped by germs.

Last week, my first grader was home all 5 days from school. Four of those days, he had a high fever. He had aches and pains. He had a dry cough.

Fortunately, the cough was short-lived. And no headache.

That means it was standard flu, not H1N1.

Honestly, my heart broke for the little guy. He was so sick that his emotions were on edge all week long. He had no energy and napped for at least a third of each day. Even this weekend, when the fever was gone, his appetite had not fully returned and he tired easily. I'm sending him back to school today, hoping that he'll make it through without getting too exhausted.

When he left with his Daddy, he asked me sincerely to just stay home and play with me. I don't think kids realize how tempting it is for a Mom to just say 'yes'. But I told him it was time to go back and reminded him of all the things he loves about school.

(If I ever considered home-schooling, it would be because of this child. Even when he's home sick, I feel spoiled by having him around. He is my buddy.)

My other two, the more driven ones, are home today instead. They have high fevers that started over the weekend. My oldest is weathering the flu rather well. He at least can play and his fever comes and goes. For my youngest -- my four year old -- the fever is constant, and it has sapped all her energy. She's just laying around in her footie pajamas asking to watch her favorite cartoon, The Pink Panther.

She was a steadfast friend to my first grader when he was sick. She sat with him and entertained him, and what does she get by way of thanks? Germs. Poor girl. She has the aches and the cough, but no headache (thank goodness).

To battle the flu, I've done a few things:

1) I've given them space of their own. We designate one couch as "the sickie bed", covering it with sheets and allowing only the sick child to lay there.

2) I'm pushing fluids. I went to the store and got juices that are my kids' favorites. My daughter can't get enough of Ruby Red Grapefruit juice (because it's pink?) My son is a fan of Cranberry-Apple. I alternate juice and water to keep them hydrated.

3)I'm making chicken soup. Whether it's a simple bowl of chicken ramen noodles or Hearty Chicken Soup with vegetables and noodles, soup really seems to help my kids. It's one of the few things they'll reliably eat when they're feeling feverish. I think the warmth and saltiness of the broth is soothing.

4) I encourage rest. I keep my kids completely out of school and activities. I keep the house quiet and make time for naps. I give them reading time and screen time. If the weather is nice, I might make time for 15 minutes out in the sunshine if they feel up to it, but no running or rough play. Instead, we spend time in the garden or on the swings and then go back inside.

5) I keep them warm, but not too warm. My daughter especially loves her fleece pajamas. But I like to dress my sickies in cotton or other breathable fabrics so they don't get too warm. That way, when their fever spikes, it doesn't have a chance to get dangerously high the way it can when they're bundled too warmly.

6) I treat the fever when needed. I use Motrin (ibuprophen) to control my kids' aches and fever. I know I'm not alone in this -- a weekend visit to Wal-mart found them completely sold out of every brand! Fortunately, I found it at Walgreens, my next stop. So, I stocked up. I always let the medication completely wear off before giving a second dose and take my child's unmedicated temperature. It gives me a good way to measure how the sickness is progressing.

7) I keep our doctor informed. I try to keep a healthy dialogue with our physician and his nurse, even if I don't plan on bringing the kids in. They can give me hints on treatment and let me know what danger signs to look for if my child takes a turn for the worse.

Based on the empty Motrin shelf at the Urbana Wal-mart, I know I'm not the only Mom doing battle right now. Honestly, caring for sick little ones is taking its toll (I'm exhausted!) But, so far so good -- we're not in dangerous territory.

I'm just hoping we're on the road to good health soon.

(But if you'll excuse me, this Midwest Mom is off to disinfect my house again. And get today's pot of chicken soup on to cook. A Mom's work is never done...)

- Midwest Mom

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Over the Top

(and I don't just mean the Stallone Movie...)


Look what my friend Green Girl in Wisconsin gave me (that lovable galoshes-wearing gardener!) I'm so grateful to have her as a friend and to read her writing. She brings out my inner Cheese-head. :)

Now, it's time to pass along the fun. Here are the rules:

1.) Thank and post URL to the blog that gave the award. (Check!)

2.) Pass the award along to 6 brilliantly over the top blogs. Alert them so they know to receive the award. (Check!)

I'll pass this along to some of my favorites:

Me-Me at The Screaming Me-Me! Whose writing never fails to make me laugh. [MadMadMargo on Twitter]

Rayne at Rayne of Terror, who -- like me -- loves to garden. [devivo on Twitter]

Leighann at Multi-Minding Mom, the greenest of my greenie girlfriends and a terrific blogger. [LeighannMMM on Twitter]

Stacey (Mom24) at 4everMom, a fantastically frugal meal-planning mom, whose life is so full, it's hard to keep up! [Mom24 on BlogCatalog]

Lesley at My Turn to Talk, a new friend I'm so glad to have. [Latest post, which I love, Blink.]


Susan at Erasing the Bored, a talented writer with a positive perspective on life. [Another latest post I love, Do Be a Do-Be]

3.) Copy and paste this quiz… Change the answers and use ONE word (whenever possible). (Check!)

1-Your cell phone? Mythical (I don't have one.)
2- Your hair? Shiny (Gotta love Fall!)
3-Your mother? Graceful
4-Your father? Protective
5-Your favorite food? Tomatoes
6-Your favorite drink? Baileys
7-Your dream last night? Bizarre
8-Your dream/goal? Balance
9-What room are you in? Den
10-Your hobby? Writing
11-Your fear? Loss of a Child (sorry, not one word)
12-Where do you want to be in 6 years? Michigan
13-Where were you last night? Home
14-Something that you aren’t? Tall
15-Muffin? Pumpkin
16-Wish list item? Laptop
17-Where did you grow up? Suburbs
18-Last thing you did? Brewed (chai black tea -- yum)
19-What are you wearing? Bare Feet
20-Your TV? On (sickies are watching Max & Ruby)
21-Your pets? Spotted (my kids have adopted every ladybug they see)
22-Friends? Dear
23- Your life? Full
24-Your mood? Content
25-Missing someone? Mom
26-Vehicle? 1995 Eagle Vision (I know you're jealous. It's a classic.)
27-Something you aren’t wearing? Make-up
28-Your favorite store? TJ Maxx
29-Favorite color? Yellow
30-When was the last time you laughed? 7:20 a.m.
31-Last time you cried? Yesterday
32-Your best friend? Joe
33-One place you go to over and over? My Garden
34-One person who emails you regularly? Melissa
35-Favorite place to eat? Home

Many thanks to all the wonderful friends I've met here and on BlogCatalog and Twitter. You are truly amazing women and my life is fuller for knowing you.

- Midwest Mom

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Midwest Fall Breathes its Last

The wind has picked up, the last breath of Fall sending leaves showering down and skittering along the pavement.

They lay piled thickly on rooftops and on the abandoned truck across the street. They clog gutters and gather at bases of bushes and trees. Eerily, they hang among the wispy remnants of Halloween cobweb.

Under the crisp blue sky, the whine of leaf blowers rings through the air, making the gentle rustle of our old-fashioned rakes sound more like a whisper than work. We are being shushed.

I laugh as the kids swing high and leap into space, plummeting into an enormous pile of crackling brown. They giggle as they crawl among the ladybugs, leaves stuck in hair and hoods and caught in fleece.

We tidy up after nature's clutter, cutting back summer's bounteous growth, now simultaneously overgrown and skeletal. Bringing order to chaos is a satisfying venture.

The birds are gone. And I feel the need to fill a feeder for the few stragglers who remain. The outdoors is muffled and smells of mold and dampness. There are no bees, only worms thriving on decay.

We witness as the colors of Autumn become the shivering nakedness of winter.

- Midwest Mom

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What to Do with All That Candy

I've been wracking my brain for the past couple of days, trying to find inventive ideas for what to do with this sudden glut of willpower-bending carbohydrate on our dining room table.

We are not a family that has candy in the house a lot. It's a special treat. Most often, I keep some in reserve to buoy my children's spirits on a long hike or a marathon drive.

But the haul they pulled down on Halloween has me wondering about my options. As I see it, here they are.

Option #1: Give a Free-Candy Day, wherein I watch my kids binge on sugar until they turn green and then turn them outdoors to run off the energy. The benefit of this approach? The festival atmosphere of it. And the fact that often they will be so engaged with trying new varieties that they will leave several kinds of candy unwrapped but untouched. As I clean up, that will go into the trash. The downside? Super-sugar rush can't be healthy. And the binge will absolutely need to be followed by a tooth-scrubbing.

Option #2: Dad and I eat It, wherein we watch our waistlines gradually balloon until we can no longer see our socks. Or, alternately, watch each other get broader in the beam until we have to buy super-wide chairs. Also, the children will get increasingly suspicious of what goes on in our household after they go to bed, saying "Hey!! Who stole my candy!!?!" and aiming accusing looks whichever parent has chocolate breath. (Although tasty, maybe this isn't the best choice for us.)

Option #3: Set Treats aside for the Future. Certain types of candy (like M&Ms or plain chocolate) can be used as baking ingredients (think cookie dough). Hard Candy could go into our hiking/long trip supply. Gummies will keep to use as great birthday cake decorations. At most, this would reduce the candy haul by about a third. But, sadly, the candies that will make the best baking ingredients are also my kids favorites.

Option #4: Donate It, wherein my children weep inconsolably because we gave their hard earned sweets to the food pantry or family shelter where they would be gratefully accepted. No one said doing good for others was easy. But the key to this one is willing children. I'm not sure I would have that, but it might be worth a try.

Option #5: Turn it into Cash. Dentists in our area actually pay kids to turn in soft, gummy (which is to say tooth-corroding) candy. They will pay per piece or per pound. I wonder, though, how satisfied my little capitalists will feel walking away with fifty cents in exchange for their sweets.... Still, it's worth considering.

Option #6: Experiment with it, wherein my kids give in to their inner mad scientists to see what happens when they crush, melt, dissolve, and mix them. I provide the materials (soda, cold and warm water, vinegar, oil, my microwave and freezer) and aprons. And I give my kids a chance to be as creative as they want. I have to say, other than the mess, I don't see a downside to this option. I even found a website with candy experiment ideas. Totally worth a try.

Option #7: Use Candy as an Art Supply, wherein the power of Elmer's glue combines with the lure of bright colors. My artists can find ways to use their candy to create. (I think this is a good partner to Option #6; it's just as messy.)

Of course, the key to my personal well-being after Halloween is getting the candy out of sight. So, whatever we do, we'll need to do it quickly. Or Mommy's going to need new jeans this Christmas... (just sayin'.)

If you have other ideas, though, lay 'em on me. In the meantime, I'm going to muster my willpower and keep out of the Dining Room!

- Midwest Mom

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Photos and Fun

What fun Halloween turned out to be.

It started off a little rocky. My first grader started feeling sick on Friday night. That turned out to be our night of horror -- stomach flu. After a few bouts of the heaves in the middle of the night. He was in bed or on the couch for most of the day.

But, by afternoon, he was asking for -- and keeping down -- food. Hubby and I talked about it and decided he could go on limited Trick or Treating. He had to follow some rules we set about keeping his distance from other kids. (The irony here is that, before he decided to be a pirate, he had talked about trick or treating as a germ.)

The fun part was that I, for the first time, got to take him door to door. He went out early -- before the sun went down (... and before Illinois was done beating Michigan. Needless to say, my husband was glued to the TV to watch the Illini's only Big 10 win this season.) I always spend tons of time on my kids' costumes, but am the one who sits on the front porch handing out candy. So, I have settle for play by play from hubby and the kids when they get home with their haul.

Not so this year. I actually got my turn!

And I must say, the costumes turned out great. My caveman was convincing -- it was the mascara unibrow that made the costume. He also gives a convincing "Ugh!"

My pirate -- though peaked -- was swashbuckling with his home-made sword and make-up scars. He was so proud of his costume this year. (I was glad he got a chance to wear it! So was he.)

And my princess was royal, to be sure. I found a great resource, a blog called Hairstyles for Girls - A Story of a Princess and her Hair. It had every conceivable hairstyle I could have wanted for my little one, with great instructions on how to make them work. It took some time, but we made my little girl's hair into princess perfection. With a little pink on her lips and cheeks and some sparkle, too, she was darling.

After I went to just the houses on our block with my first grader, Dad took over. He stayed out nice and late with the healthy ones, even meeting up with some of Primo's friends to trick or treat as a group.

When they arrived home, they were exhausted. And the candy sorting began. For the first time ever, we actually found we had things to pull out. One of my kids had gotten unwrapped Halls cough drops. Another had gotten an unwrapped (possibly used?) tooth-flosser. Still another had gotten some sort of strange plastic something we couldn't quite identify. I asked my husband where they could have come from, and he said they were definitely from his later round of trick or treating. I was glad we checked carefully.

When the night was over, we were happy and exhausted. Everyone hurried off to bed, with an extra hour's sleep in our schedule.

It wasn't until Sunday that I wondered what on Earth we'd do with all that candy.

- Midwest Mom