Putting the home in homeostasis

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Ping!   “I know it’s last minute, but I need you to send me a quick bio and photo for the booklet we’re putting together for the conference. I need it in the next 30 minutes—I’m crunched for time. Thanks a million!”

My husband’s secretary. Some corporate retreat we’re going to next month, and apparently, we are all getting a booklet with everyone’s photo and bio. As if it were some singles mixer.

Ok, to the task at hand. The 30 minute clock is ticking. I’m not even going to think about how long it will take to properly photoshop a recent snapshot. Hmmm…my life in less than 100 words? This sort of thing must be easy when you have a job title to point to, an award or two in your pocket. “40 Moms Under 40” doesn’t exist.

Let’s see, my life in a tweet: She loves to read, take long walks….delete, delete, delete. Ugh, those things haven’t been true in years. Let’s face it, I only have a stack of good intentions on my nightstand. Long walks? Well, my last long walk got extended by two miles uphill due to the desperate search of one precious blankie my two year old dropped en route. Did you know double strollers can double in weight when the occupants are screaming?

When Margaret is not unclogging shower drains or frantically speeding forgotten projects off to school, she enjoys….delete, delete, delete. A harried life is not exactly the picture I want to paint. Between nagging her 15 year old about his eagle project and retrieving small toys from the garbage disposal, Margaret plans to…delete, delete. Argh!

Last month my sweet husband found himself in the ER after an overseas business trip. Deep vein thrombosis. Basically a large blot clot deep in the veins. He received great care and is now on the mend, but what I remember most about how the doctor explained the healing process was the word “homeostasis.”

Most of us remember this word from freshman biology. “The tendency of a system to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation that would disturb its normal function.”

That’s it! That’s me! That’s my job title! Senior Vice President of Homeostasis. Better yet, Chief Executive Officer of Homeostasis. Yes. That does have a nice ring to it.

Our home is a system, is it not? The family members are the vital organs. A constant barrage of stimuli are threatening to disturb their functions, and how does a family expect to remain stable? How does the system make thousands of tiny course corrections every day? The CEO of Homeostasis!

Just as we take for granted every cold we don’t catch, every germ we shake off, every bruise that heals, not to mention how our bodies manage to sustain a cozy 98.6 degrees even when it’s freezing outside, we often overlook the homeostasis of the home.

Did you ever stop to think how the baby is magically no longer stinky? Homeostasis. The shower drain is no longer backed up? Homeostasis. Or when you were starving and a hot dinner appeared, it was homeostasis who put it in the crock pot 10-12 hours before.

You were running late and you got a ride. You found the nail clippers, dental floss, even a protractor, all when you needed them most. Homeostasis. Why both your legs aren’t broken right now, why you play an instrument, and why the house is not on fire, all this and the toilet paper finally made it onto the roll—homeostasis, baby!

When sickness or injury occur, sometimes outside help is needed. But most of the time, it is simply homeostasis that needs to be supported. A cast, a sling, stitches, rest and plenty of fluids, all these remedies are simply aimed at helping homeostasis have time to do her thing. Homeostasis really is amazing!

So here’s my “quick bio:” Margaret was born and raised in southern California. She graduated from BYU where she met her hunky husband. Currently, she is the CEO of Homeostasis, a fledgling new start up dedicated to raising seven healthy, happy, productive children. When they nap, she writes about it.

Whew! Six minutes to spare! Just enough time to take ten years off the photo.

Uber Moms

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uber-

ˈo͞obər

 1. denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.

Uber isn’t such a new idea you know. Mothers have been driving long Uber shifts for years, we just didn’t know what to call it. I’m guessing the founders of Uber, the popular ride sharing phenomenon, thought something like, “I’m tired of trying to hail a cab, riding public transportation, or driving myself like an adult. I wish I could still just call my mommy at a moment’s notice, day or night, tell her what corner I’m on and she could just take me everywhere like back in the good old days! I should text her. Hey. Wait…a….minute…!”

I’m telling you, it’s no coincidence the upstart chose to name their company the one adjective that perfectly describes their very first chauffeurs.

Uber. Outstanding. Supreme? Arguably.

Here’s a day in the life of this Uber Mom, no joke:

7:40am. Let’s go, let’s go, out the door to junior high. Do you have your instrument? Do I need to sign anything? Who are we picking up? Round up, drop off, back home to make two more lunches. 8am, piano lesson. Do you have your books? 8:30am, time to meet the elementary school walking group. What? It’s raining? Too cold and wet to walk? Load ’em up. To the school and back home again, feed the littles, throw something in the crockpot, and dress for the day. 10am, gas up and run errands. Baby falls asleep on the way home, but won’t make the transfer to his crib. Shoot. 12pm, lunch on the table. 12:30pm the afternoon kindergarten carpool begins. Round up, drop off, back home again. 1:15pm back to the school to get another child to the orthodontist by 1:30. Tick- tock. Rain’s cleared, but there’s construction. Detour. Baby threw up. Projectile. MOM!  Gross. Arrive at orthodontist at 1:45 for the 1:30 appointment. We are too late, doctor can’t see us, we must reschedule. Wait, what?? Back to school. Race home to change baby and hose down soiled car seat. 2:20pm, hustle back to the elementary school so the 8 year old is not late for piano at 2:30pm. 3pm, jr. high carpool pick up. Can my other friends get a ride too? Front door service for six. 3:30pm, Webelos and another piano lesson. Someone is early. Someone is late. Three year old tired of NPR, wants to listen to HIS music. 4pm, wolf den meeting. 4:15pm, off to the pool for swim team, 4:45pm, leave for tumbling all the way across town. 5pm den meeting pick up. Running late. Can another uber mom please Uber him home? 5:15pm, take the teenager to football practice. 5:30pm, flag football game for the 8 and 10 year olds with coach Dad. What’s that? He’s stuck in traffic. Can I take the boys over to the game and get it started? Ok. Down, set, HIKE? 6pm, tumbling pick up and swim team pickup. Someone waits way too long. “See, that’s-why-I-need-a-phone” conversion takes us up to dinner. Thank goodness for slow cookers. Help with homework, music practice, dishes. Back down the hill at 7:20 to pick up from football practice. 7:45pm, home again, home again jiggity jig.

Whew! I defy any paid Uber driver to log those kind of miles, milestones, or enjoy the ride as much as me.

Not a single Paypal invoice is sent, not a credit card swiped, and all the cash handed over the threshold of the driver’s side window goes OUT.

What’s more, they don’t make fuel efficient 12 passenger vans, so I’m really in the red on this deal. But that’s what makes moms so uber. They have vision. They see their clients as long term investments.

Meaning, in about 40 years, when all seven of my favorite ride-alongs band together and resolve to strip away my driver’s license, I fully expect to be chauffeured around in style. Moment’s notice, too. Day or night. Rain or shine. They’ll be just a text away!

True or False: My tweens are the last on planet earth to have cell phones

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Pop quiz. True or False? My 14 and 12 year olds are the very last tweens on planet earth to have cell phones.

Please tell me the answer is false. I want the answer to be false. Surely there must be other kids in that junior high sans phones. I can’t be the only holdout, right? And if the answer is true, that they are the very last, that means…well, that means…my children are…right.

I was 32 when I finally got an iPhone. Before that, I asked gas station attendants for directions, kept a Thomas Guide in the glove box, and if I said I was going to meet up with someone, I made darn sure I was there and on time. Sure, there were a few awkward moments when I had to ask perfect strangers at Disneyland if I could borrow their cell phones when I got separated from my group, but it was a small price to pay to never be over my minutes.

I get the convenience of a cell phone, I really do. Seven years later, my phone has now evolved into an essential third appendage, connecting (or tethering) me to my loved ones and babysitters. But the convenience comes at a price. The self discipline it takes to unplug or power off a smart phone regularly is herculean. Are my tweens ready for that responsibility? Am I ready for that battle?

I want to hold on to this era before it becomes a bygone era. Right now their self esteem isn’t tied to a number of “likes.” The dinner table is chatty. Their friends have to actually call me in order to contact them. (Talk about knowing where they are!)

I keep clinging to this idea that when a boy wants to call my daughter, he’s supposed to say, “Good evening Mrs. Anderson, is your daughter home?” Then she’s supposed to blush and stretch the long curly cord into a tightrope, tugging it vainly for a shred of privacy. What a great system! With just that short exchange and a little eavesdropping, I’d be able to quickly identify the Eddie Hasckels from the Wally Cleavers of the world and keep a firm finger on the pulse of the house. I know this scenario is as naive and jejune as insisting a spiffy milkman in a bow tie drop off my two-percent every morning, but it’s nice to dream.

Occasionally my dreams do come true. Just last week my 14 year old was ice skating with our youth group when a pretty blonde asked him for his number so they could “text later.” He had no choice but to tell her he didn’t have a phone, but she was welcome to call me, his mother, and that I could patch her straight through. She hasn’t called. How come forward girls never call when they say they will?

But now my tweens are starting to make more money than any of their two-bit lemonade stands ever did. The babysitting and lawn mowing dollars are adding up. By this time next year they will have enough dough to strike out on their own phone plans. Instagram and Twitter feeds will inevitably follow. They always do.

I believe I must accept the coming changes with grace, dignity, and also a few rules, stipulations and provisos. I’ll have to up my own cell phone etiquette too, lest they call out my hypocrisy. On the bright side, at least once they have cell phones, they’ll have something cool I can take away. Because guess what? Here’s one more pop quiz:

True or False? My kids are the only ones left in the entire free world to not own a single video game either.

 

 

 

 

The 10 Commandments of Toilet Training

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“When are you coming home!” I whispered fiercely into the receiver, panic and paranoia choking my volume.

“Things at the office are a little hectic. Uh, about an hour I guess. Why?”

“He’s doing it again. He’s pooping his pants behind the couch just to spite me. To spite me! He knows what he’s doing too. I can see it in his eyes. He knows he holds the power…”

This was me, 12 years ago, potty training our first child. Clearly, it did not go the way the book had promised. Somewhere between the salty breakfast and cleaning up our first “accident,” the power somehow shifted from me to him as he sat smugly on his porcelain throne, those big blue innocent eyes of his looking calculating for the very first time. He was only two years old.

Since those dark days, I’ve learned a thing or two about teaching this life skill to each successive two year old to cross my changing table. If I had a nickel for every time the topic has come up at nursery, the park, playgroup, I could afford diapers indefinitely. But as it is, we all must take the plunge, (or the plunger…until good TP etiquette is established.) So if I may be so bold as to impart what I’ve learned, take it for what it’s worth.

1.) Thou shalt never ask whether the trainee has to go. Rookie mistake. The simple truth is, they lie. All of them. Instead, phrases like, “It’s time to go to the bathroom!” will do more to further your cause. A two year old saying he doesn’t have to go is like an inmate saying he didn’t do it. Save it for the judge.

2.) Thou shalt give at least 48 undistracted hours to the task. The fridge is full, the house is clean, the TV is off, and the phone is set to voicemail. Do not leave the house. Your toddler has your full attention! What a treat for the two of you to do puzzles together, read books, play games. And yes, the minute to turn your back to rotate the laundry, disaster will strike. Constant vigilance!

3.) Thou shalt mark the day. I always don my apron with deep pockets filled with mini marshmallows and M&Ms, skip my way to the sleeping toddler’s room, and announce in my best Mary Poppins sing-song voice, “Today is the day!” as I throw back the curtains. We ceremoniously get rid of any diapers still in the house and introduce them to the soft feel of cotton.

4.) Drink up! Practice makes perfect. This is when I splurge on otherwise contraband beverages. Chocolate milk, juice boxes, soda–it’s the best day ever as far as toddlers are concerned.

5.) Thou shalt not go half way. No pull-ups, no diapers during a day of errands. Pick a day and there is no going back. Be like Churchill and never give up!

6.) Thou shalt praise. A potty cheer, a victory dance, a high five or all of the above work wonders.

7.) Thou shalt not get mad. Get disgusted instead. Pee-yew! Gross! Then cool as a cucumber, have them clean it up.

8.) Set them up for success. After the 48 hour period of home confinement, make only quick trips out if need be. Be prepared to happily drop whatever it is you’re doing to answer the toddler’s call for assistance.

9.) Enjoy the savings! Do something special with the money you’re saving by not buying diapers and wipes! It’s a small fortune.

10.) Thou shalt not worry. I promise your child will go to kindergarten potty trained. They will take their driver’s test potty trained. College, honeymoon, first job, all fully potty trained. It will happen.

Now if you have any advice for me on training teenagers to pick up their wet towels. I’m starting to think they’re doing it just to spite me!

Party of Nine, Your Table’s Dirty

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What would I do without tablecloths?

If I were say, a realtor, and had to describe my kitchen table, I’d use words like “distressed”, “whimsical”, or “lived in.” The blunt truth is, our kitchen table is a dumpster dive from our early bootstrap years of marriage. We dragged it home, slathered on a thick coat of white paint, gathered some mismatched chairs from around the house and she was ours, good as new! Now, several years and and even more babies later, her thick coat of white paint is peeling like a nose in August.

Like the pencil ticks on the door jam preserving our children’s heights, the kitchen table is another monument to their ages. There are places where the two year old finally found his creative gift when he uncapped a Sharpie. There are glue gun gobs from years of school projects that simply won’t scrape off unless, you guessed it, more paint peels off with them. There are smatters of tempera paint that I was sure would wash right off, drips from the four year old’s nail polish, and stubborn splatters of spaghetti sauce during the toddler’s Jackson Pollock phase. Each mark, scar and stain have left it looking, well, “distressed.”

The 2mm crease where the missing leaf would normally sit (the  whereabouts of which are still unknown) is conveniently fused together via a sticky, slurry blend of homemade play-dough, spilled milk, and spoonfuls of cinnamon sugar from the morning toast. I couldn’t pry it apart if the missing leaf knocked on my front door tomorrow.

So for special occasions like Sundays, in-laws, and eating in broad daylight, we prefer to keep the old girl veiled in one of her sweeping polyester favorites, stain resistant and machine washable. Otherwise, juxtaposed to our newly remodeled kitchen, the table feels like Martin’s barcalounger from the show “Frasier”: comically out of place amid clean lines and our attempt at a fresh modern feel.

Then there’s the size. When it was the four of us, then the five of us, then six, her size was a nonissue. Now we are nine. Nine people mashed elbow to elbow, hip to hip around its narrow perimeter, our screechy chairs constantly vying for spots along the edge. I’m still trying to decide if we can even afford to set up the high chair seeing as our available breakfast nook real estate is so scarce.

Table shopping has been nothing but frustrating. Anything very nice will get ruined, anything big enough leaves no space for chairs, and can’t you just see us all standing around the dinner table, plastic Ikea cups in hand,  chatting like it’s a single’s mixer? I’d breeze by with trays of chicken satay, mushroom puffs and canapés at five minute intervals…

I have a friend who had the ingenious notion to remove all the floor carpets from her brand new car on day one. She let the actual floor of her minivan receive all the abuse from muddy cleats, leaky bottles and used ketchup packets directly. Then when she had a guest, she plunked down her factory fresh, mint condition floor carpets. Instant detail job!

That’s how I feel about our dirty kitchen table. Bring on the science projects, the manicures, the watercolors, the homework, even the glue gun. I’ve got a spanking fresh tablecloth at the ready for when a guest knocks or the dinner bell tolls.

And if it’s both, best bring your own chair.