Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Kids Will Eat Anything

This child is terrifying.
I once made the mistake of telling our friend the Yenta that my kids will eat anything. Being a newlywed who is not a mom yet, she thought that meant they ate a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains and other crap like that. I had to correct her. I was like: "Yenta, when I said they'll eat anything, I meant that literally. Yesterday Mini ate a rock she found on my neighbor's driveway."

But you know what? She still asked me to write a post for her about how to coerce adorable small people into eating food that is healthy for them. And here it is:

Do you have any questions for the Yenta for her next foodie post for us? I for one, want some recipes for Spring and Summer that are crock potty. I love my Crock but feel like I only use it in the winter. I also want to know about eggplant. Why does it always make my mouth feel stingy? I love it so much but it doesn't seem to love me back. Is that normal? Or is my eggplant just being dickish?

One more thing, our darling Yenta has been nominated as one of the top food blogs by our buddies at Babble. Would you mind talking a minute to vote for her? Just click here (she's #386 if you search alphabetically). I tried to use my influence over there to get them to just go ahead and pick her and they were like: "There are rules, jackass."*

*They didn't actually say that but I'm pretty sure they were thinking it.

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Help This Woman: What the Hell Do I Do Now?

I got this email last night and I have to say: OH CRAP. It's sort of my worst teenage nightmare - or one of them, anyway. When my little sister (at age 18) came to live with me and the Cap'n and our kiddos, she was doing way worse stuff than this. But she had decided to turn her ship around, so even though it was a hard transition - the change came from her. I suspect that's why it worked out.So really, I have no idea what to say.

This mom is asking us for our advice and suggestions. So let's her give our judgement-free thoughts - because we all know that sometimes good kids make crappy choices. Here's her email:

My 16 yr. old son, we'll call him "C" was caught before school with 2 girls and they had been smoking pot. They had pretty much finished smoking it by the time the officer got there, so they ended being charged with paraphernalia for the pipe. I have an attorney friend who's helping us to hopefully get him off with less trouble. He told me to let C know this is his ONE chance and not to expect to get help or get off easy if he ever gets caught again. Of course, my son was all "I understand," etc., but I've come to find out that he's been up to no good.

He's working at a grocery store part time and is usually scheduled till 9pm, but has called quite a few nights saying they asked him to work late.  Come to find out, only 1 or 2 of those nights did he actually stay late, but he claimed he was there and stayed an hour or two over.  I just knew something was up, so I went by this morning while he and the Wildman (his 10 yr. old ADHD, Asperger's brother) were at school.  The nice manager showed me when he clocked out last Friday and Saturday night and guess what?  He left at 9pm, he didn't stay over.  I guess he thinks hubby and I are too old and dumb to eventually figure it out when his paycheck doesn't show those hours. 

Then he's been going to a friend's house after school. Only thing is, on Facebook (glad they didn't have FB back when I was his age!), this kid and his mom's pages say he lives too far away to be going to the same school as C.  Did they both neglect to put the correct town on their pages?  Somehow I doubt it.

We already have our hands full with the Wildman's issues and now we have to worry where C is, what he's doing, etc.  What if he gets caught again?  What if he's driving and gets pulled over, or worse, gets in an accident? I am stressed out and on the verge of losing my schmidt!

Any ideas on how to get through to him about this and what it could do to his life and the lives of others? I don't want to wait till it's too late to do something!  Please help!



(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top 10 Things You Don't Want to Hear During A Conference Call from Home

I work from home. That means I usually have a couple of phone calls each week where I need to at least attempt to sound like a together grown-up. It takes HOURS of strategery to get my kids sorted out so that I can have one 20 minute conversation without being interrupted. And it's usually a disaster. Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. If you're a parent, you've probably experienced something like this:

[phone rings]
Lydia: Hello?
Automated Machine: This is Verizon, returning your call. Your estimated wait time to speak to a customer service representative is ... 39 minutes. Would you like to hold? If so, please say yes.
Lydia: Y--
Automated Machine: I did not understand your response. At the tone, please say yes or no.
Lydia: YE--
Automated Machine: Thank you. Your account has been cancelled. Good bye.

Here are the top 10 things you don't want to hear while attempting to have an important, adult-type conversation from home.

10. "MOMMMY! Wipe! My! Bottom!"

9. "Be'scuse me. Dora is over."

8. The sound of water running somewhere in the house. Water you did not turn on.

7. [Over the baby monitor] "I not asweep! LA LA LA! Not sweeping ever ever EVER!"

6. A door opening. Doesn't matter what door. Front door? BAD. Fridge door? BAD. Back door? BAD. Garage door? Very Bad. Pantry door? Not good.

5. "Bad dog! Let me ride you!"

4. [Click. Other phone in house gets picked up] Mommy? Are you still on da phone wif dat mean lady you don't like from your work?

3. SMASH. Thump thump thump. Pause. Crying.

2. "Uh oh. I think I broke da potty."

1. Wait. What is that? Oh no. It's the ... Ominous Silence.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tips and Tricks for Making Life Easier - The TV Interview

Last week, when I was neck-deep into reading through all your brilliant and amazing comments regarding how to make life easier, I got an email. It was from my buddy Alison at Let's Talk Live asking if I could come on and talk about something. And I was all: "I HAVE THE PERFECT THING."

So I took all my notes with me and headed over to their studio. I looked extremely glame, as you would expect. At one point, when I talked about the Fly Lady and the one hour power clean, I had to stop myself from saying "batshit crazy". I'm pretty sure that's something you're NOT supposed to say on live TV. If you watch you can see me start to say "BAT" and then stop myself.

So anyway, here's the clip. I also talk about awesome you are.

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 4

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you for advice on things I could do to make life easier, juggling lots of responsibilities, three kids and the fact that I'm a crappy housewife. Your comments and suggestions were awesome. But there were so many of them, that we had to write multiple. Your comments fell under the following categories. To read more on any of these topics, just click on the link.

For the complete list of suggestions, click here and read through the 200+ comments. Today we'll discuss Managing Kids and Their Stuff and Staying Organized.

Managing Kids and Their Stuff
1. Baskets
If there's a problem area where your kids' random stuff always finds itself (for me it's the family room), give each kid a basket and put it there. At the end of every day - put their stuff in their basket. At the end of the week, they take the basket to their room and put everything away. The Patron Saint of Mommyland also does this and she calls them CRAP BASKETS. Because the kids' crap goes in their baskets and not on the floor and therefore your house appears to be more tidy.

2. Deadlines
Here's how these bad boys work. The kids have something to do, for example - put away everything in their crap basket. They know that they're supposed to do it Friday when they get home from school. Nothing else fun is allowed until they get it done. Wii? NON. Spongebob? NON. Play with the kid from the down the street? NON. Go on the planned sleep-over at best friend's house? Sorry... NON.

Do you know what else this empowers you to do? And some moms do it every day. HIDE THE REMOTE and POCKET THE CELL PHONES. When homework and chores are done, you can have them back. The end.

3. Do as much as you can the night before
This includes laying out clothes, packing backpacks and putting them by the front door, pre-making lunches, etc. Because it appears that even the most organized and together mommies find that the 20 minutes before you have to leave for school is an unmitigated cluster. Is it very wrong that that makes me feel better?

4. Chore charts
These are so, so helpful. When we have little behavior problems at our house, we also sometimes use "Good Choices" charts. I told Guru Louise about that and she was all: "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE?!" Here's an example of how one mommy uses a chore chart:
I got this one for about $9 at Target.
"We have a Chore Chart on the side of the fridge. It's on a piece of paper slid into one of those page protectors. Each day has chores that need to get done on a daily basis (dishes, counters, litter box, cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.). Then each day has one special chore that gets done weekly. (Laundry, dusting, vacuuming, trash, bathrooms). We each have a different color of dry-erase pen, so that when we do a chore we cross it off. That way we know 1) that the chore was done and 2) who did it. It gives a good visual of whether or not everyone is pulling their weight, and who needs to try harder. It also gives the hardest worker an excuse to point out how hard they work, and that they really, really deserve a break. Or some chocolate."
5. Checklists
Like chore charts, they can be a really useful tool.
"I stole this from my sister in law, but adjusted it for my "not old enough to read yet son." He has a list on his bedroom wall containing pictures of the steps he needs to take to get himself ready in the morning and before bed. For the morning: 1.) a picture of the potty 2.) toothbrush 3.) shirt 4.) underpants 5.) socks 6.) pants 7.) jammies in hamper 8.) a pic of pancakes to remind him to go downstairs for breakfast. At bedtime 1.) potty 2.) toothbrush 3.) pull-up 4.) jammies 5.) pick a story

He still needs occasional prodding to hurry up (I am thinking of getting a timer), but this frees me up to get myself and the baby ready in the morning. Also, it gives him a sense of accomplishment that he did it himself. With older kids, same checklist with words."
7. Artwork and School Work
A friend told me she had figured out how to stay on top of this. It's a 5 point strategy.
  • Tell your kids they can only hand you important papers from school in the kitchen (or wherever is close to your family calendar and/or a trash can). Tell them if they give it to you anywhere except there, IT WILL GET LOST.
  • Any dates/deadlines/events go directly onto the calendar.
  • Each kid's artwork/school work gets one folder per month. Anything that looks like a keeper or needs follow up goes in the folder.
  • Everything else gets recycled.
  • At the end of the school year, go through each folder and the keepers will be obvious. The rest gets recycled when they're not looking.

Sigh... Isn't it beautiful?
Staying Organized
1. The area by the door
We all want a mudroom. With hooks and shelves and cubbies and little lockers with crown molding. Except most of us don't have one. So some very smart mommies decided to re-purpose their hall closets with plastic or fabric hanging shoe holders to serve the same function. It helps organize their kids' stuff and even though it doesn't look all swanky - who the hell cares. It's a closet, close the door.

2. The Mail
This idea is genius and I have already done the same thing. GENIUS, I tell you.
"I made a mail organizer from an idea I got from the blog Controlling my Chaos. Mine isn't as cute has Jill's, but it has really helped me feel like I'm on top of things. When it's time to pay the bills, I just grab the folder and I don't have to spend 1/2 hour finding the bills.
3. Flylady
Apparently, FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself. AWWWWWW! I love that. I've heard about this site for years and have read many things on it myself. I know it has helped so many people. It's great for people who are feeling really out of control with their chaos, which she calls Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. Is it for everyone? Nope. But nothing is. Lots of people love her and I think her non-judgey, you go girl vibe is pretty badass.

"One word, Lydia: Flylady. Okay, this comment is obviously more than one word, but seriously, check her out. Because I think Flylady understands all about being a boobstain. I certainly do, and her messages really resonate with me."
4. Ten Minute Rule

So many people talked about this. Set a timer. Do something for 10 minutes - just 10. Clean your kitchen. Fold some laundry. Start purging crap from the junk drawer. You will be amazed what you can get done in 10 minutes. I tried it this week. I stopped playing Words with Friends during the day and whenever I had a few minutes (like that weird break before I have to go the bus stop) - I would just start cleaning. It works. By Maude, it works.

Having just moved, I can't tell you how cathartic it was to just get rid of stuff. Having less stuff means there is less clutter, less to clean, less to deal with, less crap to be overwhelmed by. If you haven't used it or needed it in a year - get rid of it. We've discussed methods for doing this, including our buddies at Here are some of your options:
  • Donate it
    • For pick-up, we suggest our buddies at - you tell them when and they'll come get it. It's awesome.
    • Salvation Army and Good Will took about ten van loads when I moved last year
  • Sell it
    • Craig's List (But be careful of internet weirdos - wait. I am an internet weirdo. Never mind)
  • Freecycle it
    • You know someone is getting it who wants it and that its not ending up in a landfill
  • Consign it
    • Great option for kid stuff and it's that time of year in these parts
  • Throw it away
    • Some stuff isn't worth donating. Recycle what you can and don't be afraid to but stuff out a day early - I was SHOCKED what people came and trash picked. I was also gratified, though. Because I would much rather people get free stuff that may need it than for it end up getting wasted.
6. Less mail/information – unsubscribe from everything
This momma is absolutely right. We're all bombarded with too much information every day and I think it adds to the sense of being underwater with everything.
"Reduce the amount of information coming into your house. Whether it's junk mail, email or RSS feeds, spend a few minutes here and there unsubscribing from these things as they appear. It will make you feel more sane and you'll have a *few* less things to handle each day in the long run. If you miss a sale, a great blog post or an email from someone you actually know, I guarantee another one will pop up again eventually."
Here's a good resource on how to stop junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers (and telephone solicitations).

7. Auto bill pay, or e-bills
I truly, truly hate to pay bills. I feel like everyone except me has been doing this on-line bill pay thing for years. I didn't because I was like "I don't have the time to set it up and I hate paying bills so I don't want to even think about it."

Just in case there's still a few hold-outs - come to the dark side. It's so amazing here. It takes me 5 minutes to pay bills now. I have less mail coming to the house - so less clutter and crap to deal with. I save money because I don't pay for postage anymore and I avoid late fees because it's so dang easy. It does everything for me and it gives me back time and it makes something unpleasant and hard, much easier to bear. And that's what she said.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 5 - The TV Interview!

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 3

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you for advice on things I could do to make life easier, juggling too much crap, lots of kids and the fact that I'm a schmidtty at being a housewife. Your comments and suggestions were awesome. But there were so many of them that we had to write multiple posts. Your comments fell under the following categories. (To read more on any of these topics, just click on the links.)
*Coming tomorrow

For the complete list of suggestions, click here and read through the 200+ comments. Today we'll discuss Laundry and Cleaning.

1. Find a system and stick with it
Maybe it's doing one load every day. Maybe it's doing everything on Sundays and folding while watching TV until the wee hours. Perhaps, if you're very smart, you hand the whole the thing off to your husband. The point is, find a process that works for you and then just do it every single week.

2. Mesh bags
Get a bunch of them and store them next to your hamper. One for socks and one for things that shouldn't go in the dryer. That way, pairing up socks becomes a lot easier and having all your non-dryer stuff in a mesh bag means it's easy to pull it out and not accidentally ruin something.

3. How to iron your clothes
One reader said this: "I iron things in the dryer, if necessary." Very smart.

4. The One Hamper Per Person Method:
While I think this idea is genius (in fact, I already do it for my 6 and 8 year old) - it would drive Kate directly to the nervous hospital in a vintage 1958 snit.
"Here is my biggest tip for slackers: each kid has their own laundry hamper. When it is full and/or kid hollers that they have no more clean pants and where is their soccer uniform, you dump the contents in the laundry. No sorting. Wash on cold. When they are done, you take the entire load and dump it on their bed. Then you sort into piles--NO FOLDING! Just a pile of shirts, a heap of pants. You make the kid stuff the pile in their drawers--NO FOLDING! And each kid's laundry is done this way separately from everyone else's! The no folding and no sorting different people's socks has changed my life."
5.Other ideas
Here's some other really good information from some people who have clearly kicked Randy the Laundry Fairy in the gonads:
"I had my dryer vent cleaned out and now my dryer works faster" (This is also helps prevent a major cause of home fires so good to know!)
"Those gazillion laundry baskets in your house? Make sure they are ALL THE SAME SIZE. Check out Target during the Dorm season. The Sterilite baskets usually go on clearance for between $1 or $2 (I've gotten them for 75 cents - SCORE!). When they aren't used, they are stacked together and don't take up much space. I also have a ton of the big Tide lingerie bags (Walmart has them the cheapest and they've got a VERY fine mesh so bra hooks don't poke through and catch everything else) that non-dryer clothes go in. They are kept right by the laundry baskets so I can easily throw things in there, then in the basket. When I pull stuff out of the washer, I know it can't go in the dryer."
Cleaning the House
For Pete's sake! Don't forget about choreplay!
1. Lower your expectations.
Don't kill yourself. It doesn't have to be perfect. Really. Don't forget what's really matters - time with your kids that you can't get back or just taking a minute to catch your breathe. Because ultimately, is it really that important? One reader shared these words:
"Jill Ker Conway made a speech to a graduating class at Smith College that has become so legendary there that I thought it was a myth (then I made friends with someone who graduated in the 70s and was there for the speech, and she assures me it is true). Basically, she said: "Dust Has No Moral Value. Do not judge yourself by how clean your house is. Instead, judge yourself by how much meaning you find in your life and how much good you do."
2. Rotate chores
That way no one gets sick of having to do the same thing all the dang time.

3. The Flylady's “One Hour Power Clean”

So many people mentioned how wonderful and helpful The Flylady has been for them. She has this thing called the "One Hour Power Clean" where everyone pitches in and works their tails off for one hour per week. The amount you can get done is apparently stunning.

4. Doing the Dishes
This task drives us all nuts. And now matter how you do it, it's irritating. But this lady has found a method that makes it easier so we thought we'd share:
"I don't run the dishwasher at night. Rather I run it after breakfast. Because I HATE unloading the dishwasher in the morning rush. It is easier to unload it in the evening while dinner is cooking, or sometimes after dinner. So I toss the breakfast dishes in and then start it. Has changed my life!"
5. Keep wipes everywhere.
Their handy and if they're right there, you can just wipe down the counter top in the bathroom after you finish washing your hands. These can be the Lysol-type wipes or even...
"Baby wipes. Everywhere. There is nothing you can't clean with baby wipes, and they are not toxic or smelly - I have them stashed under every counter and in every room. When I have that moment of "Holy mother of God, does NO ONE see the fungus in this sink??" I can just swipe it out with a wipe and then get on with whatever else I was doing."
6. Clean the bathroom while the kids are in the tub
Oh. Mah. Gah. I mean, I'm right there anyway. Usually playing Words with Friends and saying "Bathwater stays in the bathtub!" for the 9,000th time. How did I never think to do this?

7. Make the kids help
This was one of the three big things you suggested but we're saying it again now. YOU'RE DOING THEM A FAVOR by making the care and upkeep of the house their responsibility, too. It's their home. You guys are a team. Working together on housekeeping and making that a normal part of family life is a really good thing. And just because they're little, doesn't mean they can't help. As a matter of fact - the little ones usually want to help and they are much more capable than we often give them credit for. Here's an example:
"I had a child to in order to become a parent, not a maid. My daughter is 4 and she's a big help around the house. I'm already training her to do her own laundry. I sit her on the dryer and she loads the washer. Together we load the dryer. I fold, but she puts away. She also sets out her own clothes the night before. She has her own broom and if she makes a mess she sweeps it up. Actually she can be annoying with the broom if I'm trying to sweep something up on my own she insists on helping. If I'm cleaning and she's underfoot I hand her the dust cloth and she dusts the dining room table (and all the little holes and slats in the chairs that are perfect for her tiny fingers). Another option is to let her wash the windows. The low ones anyway. I spray the Windex but she wipes. She wipes out her own sink. Before she gets out of the bath she wipes down the sides. That makes it easier for me to clean later if I don't have layers of tub crayon residue to deal with. If she uses my shower, she has to squeegee the door and walls. I have to beg her to get out sometimes. She knows how to replace the toilet paper roll. She takes the recycling to the garage. She helps unload the dishwasher (she can do the silverware herself, but the rest she either hands me or puts on the counter for me) and she loves to load it."
This is a Shark.
8. Another idea
Here's another suggestion (that I know is true because my kids will punch each other in the face over getting to use the DustBuster):
"I'll tell you, my girls will bicker over who gets to vacuum the floor if they're using the Shark. Get one - it's lightweight, picks up a lot of stuff and it's really easy for the kids to use. No cords to trip over, they're sharing in the running of the household and you get to look at the corners that no longer have days/weeks worth of food/trash/WTF is that??? Even the Dirt Devil has a lightweight vacuum for cheap (Dollar General or Family Dollar, but probably more expensive at Walmart or Target). They'll do a lot more around the house when they realize it benefits them AND they aren't barked at to do it."
Stay tuned, tomorrow we discuss your suggestions for Managing Kids and Their Stuff and Staying Organized.
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you for advice on things I could do to make life easier, juggling lots of responsibilities, three kids and the fact that I'm a crappy housewife. Your comments and suggestions were awesome. Yesterday I posted about the three things main things you could do to make everything else a little more manageable. Today, we're going to discuss specific tips, tricks, resources and ideas to make the six most commonly mentioned problem areas a little bit easier to deal with. Let's get started:

Areas we want to fix: Based on your comments and suggestions, most of the stuff that is driving us nuts falls under 6 categories:
  • Planning and Scheduling
  • Meals and Food
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning and Dishes
  • Managing Kids and Their Stuff
  • Staying Organized
Some of these suggestions may be things you're already doing or have already heard about. For the complete list of suggestions, click here and read through the 200+ comments. Lots of the ideas were new to me and I can't wait to start trying them out. Today we'll discuss 'Planning, Scheduling, Lists' and 'Meals and Food'.

Planning, Scheduling, Lists
1. Try a Household Master Calendar
This can be an electronic calendar or one hanging on the wall in the kitchen - but we got lots and lots of comments about how important it is to put everyone's stuff on one calendar. I have one in my house that is a giant peel and stick white board. It's the best thing that ever happened to me.

2. Use technology to help
Some people set timers and reminders on their phones and iPods. Others use apps to get schedules, lists and appointments coordinated. The app that was most recommended was from Cozi and after playing around with it on my smartphone for a while, I can understand why.
"I love my to-do app - ToodleDo. It really helps me remember to do things like pay the bills, make sure the oldest has is school library books on the right day, sign kids up for summer camp. That sort of thing. I even put long term things on it like washing the curtains. Stuff I am now on top of that I NEVER used to remember to do."
3. Shop Smart
Whether it's groceries or Target runs, the consensus was to minimize trips to the store (one big trip per week), go without the kids (like late at night), and stick to the list. It saves time, money and aggravation. There was also lots of suggestions about about using technology for lists (and even coupons). For some people, this included getting their groceries delivered via Peapod or another like service. Here's another idea:
"Amazon Prime is worth every penny. I can get so much stuff delivered for free with overnight or 2 day delivery. It has drastically cut down my Target runs (though some may not look at that as a good thing)."
4. Carpooling
This is a huge sanity saver for me. It's one thing I do that gives me HOURS back in my week. My older kids are just now big enough that many of their activities don't require me to be there the whole time. If there are other families you know and like on the same team/troop/class - discuss carpooling with them.

It goes without saying that the parent driving your child must be trustworthy and responsible. I mean, I get scared that a sex offender has abducted my kid if they're taking too long in the bathroom, so I'm extremely paranoid judicious about the people we share rides with. But it is so worth it. If you haven't started doing this yet and you find that you just don't have enough hours in the day to manage everything, maybe it's time to give it a try. And the biggest surprise? My kids completely LOVE riding in their friends' cars. Who knew?

Meals and Food
1. Meal planning
This was the number one thing that came up. If you plan out your week's meals, you can then create a master shopping list around that plan and know what you're doing (at least a little) heading into each evening. It takes a lot of pressure off. In my house, the witching hours are between 5:30 and 8:30pm. I will do anything to make that time of day easier.
"I plan my meals for the week on Sunday afternoon and try to hit the grocery store right then or first thing Monday morning. It decreases my stress level immensely to not have to stand in front of the fridge at 5:00 and wonder what's for dinner. And I write the menu on our family calendar, so my husband will know whats for dinner and not eat pizza for lunch if we are having pizza for dinner."
2. Use technology
There are lost of websites and apps that can help you with ideas and tips. Some sites like Epicurious and AllRecipes will even populate shopping recipes for you once you select recipes. Folks suggested using Pinterest to create boards for weekday meals, and while this makes total sense, for those of us who are easily distracted - SQUIRREL! - Pinterest is a fun diversion rather than a time saver.
" has changed my life. No more staring blankly into the fridge every night wondering what to make. You build your recipe box online, choose your meals and it adds everything you need to a grocery list, organized by the aisle you'll find it in. It even has a little thing you can add to your toolbar so you can 'clip' recipes from other websites and add them to your recipe box."

3. Cook Once, Eat Twice
This is a pretty straightforward concept, also known as EMBRACE LEFTOVERS. As one commenter wrote: "Large roasted meats are your FRIEND! That's what she said." She suggested something like this: on Sunday, roast a large chicken. On Monday, make chicken quesadillas. On Tuesday, chicken with green beans and Uncle Ben's.

4. The Crock Pot
Food that cooks itself. AWESOME. And it doesn't just have to be pot roast. There are lots of great ideas out there for all kinds of good stuff. As a matter of fact, our culinary guru The Yenta is working on some crock pot recipes just for us that are perfect for kids and the warmer temps of Springtime.

5. Kids Snacks & Kids Lunches
Here are three reader comments on things they suggest:
"The bottom crisper bin in the fridge is now the lunchbox supply and snack drawer. On Sunday I stock it with ready- to-go servings of whatever fruits & veggies the kids will eat that week, pretzels, goldfish, milk boxes, etc. I still have to make a sandwich in the morning, but that's it. Makes the mornings way less stressful."

"I make their lunches right after dinner (while I'm still in the kitchen). I complain about it every time, but if I wait until the next morning we are SCREWED and will never get out of the house on time."

"Empower the children - we put plastic cups and plates in bottom cabinets, put their cereals and snacks down low, put coat hooks and cubbies where they could reach them, basically arranged the house so we could say, as often as humanly possible, "Get it yourself."

6. Leftovers
With the whole concept of cooking one and eating twice, you'll end up with a lot of leftovers. Here'a thought on how to deal with them:
"The Leftover shelf. One shelf in the fridge is the designated leftover spot. Any food that needs to be eaten gets put on that shelf. NOTHING else is allowed on that shelf. Our trash day is Thursday, so on Wednesday night I check and make sure that anything on the shelf is still edible and toss what isn't. That is also the night I decide if some of the leftovers need to be frozen. This way nothing gets lost at the back of the fridge and forgotten about. We purposely made it an eye level shelf so we don't forget about it."
Stay tuned for tomorrow, where we tackle laundry and cleaning. Woo HOO! Let's kick Randy the Laundry Fairy right in the 'nads!

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Monday, March 19, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 1

Last week I asked you ladies for your advice on ways to make life easier. We got hundreds of comments on the blog, Facebook and Twitter. I learned so much – thank you for sharing your smartness with me. Let’s get started:

The problem: Like every other mom in the world, I am stressed out, exhausted, have no time and feel like I’m not doing a good enough job managing kids, house, work, time, activities, etc. I wondered if there were simple solutions that might help me do my job at home a little better.

What you told me: I sort of see the feedback you gave me as falling into two categories:
  • Generally Awesome Advice that Will Make My Life Easier (Part 1)
  • Specific Tips and Tricks to Help with Problem Areas (Part 2)
The first category includes three main ideas which make everything else easier. They're kind of like umbrella concepts that cover all the specific problems areas (planning and scheduling, laundry, cleaning, cooking, organization, etc.) that you identified. I plan on really trying all three of these ideas out and look forward to them making everything (if not easier) at least more manageable. That's the thing about using an umbrella, you still get wet. But if you don't use one - you get drenched. Here's an illustrative graphic of what I mean:

Without further ado here are the three umbrella concepts...

Item #1: Stop & Assess
Before I do anything else, I need to stop (drop and roll) and evaluate where I’m at. Like a lot of you, I'm trying to do too much at once and as a result, I feel like I'm not doing a good job at any of it. For me, multi-tasking doesn't mean "very efficient", it means "frenetic flapping about". I hop from task to task, so I’m not really getting anything all the way done. As a result, I feel dissatisfied and crappy because even though I’m constantly working, there's no corresponding sense of accomplishment or pay-off. That adds stress and frustration.

For example - I start something and then someone needs to be wiped or the phone rings or I get an email and what was I just doing again? As one of our commenters so eloquently put it: “I am overwhelmed and I try to just focus on one thing at a time and ...SQUIRREL!”

I know that feeling and I want it to stop. So I’m going to slow down and answer the following questions:
  • What HAS to get done? What’s the REAL priority?
  • What in your house is driving you the most nuts?
  • Who can help you?
  • What kind of person are you?
I don’t mean this last question in an indignant and finger-pointy way. As I read through the comments, it occurred to me that the suggestions that were working great for some people would just stress me out more. So here’s what I’m asking – are you a load a day laundry person or a once a week laundry person? It’s maybe good to know that before we dive in. Because trying to do something that just doesn’t jive with your personality and lifestyle isn’t helpful – it will only add stress. A lot people suggest using technology and apps to help organize their schedules, plan meals and share grocery lists. I find the idea of that more stressful than just doing the shopping. But for someone else, the idea that an app could coordinate that for them would take a lot off their plate.

Item #2: Make Your Kids Help
The goal with parenting is to raise small humans who eventually become independent, right? So they can take care of themselves and maybe even help other people or one day have small humans of their own to care for. So why wouldn't you teach them the basics of what it takes to take care of themselves and where they live? I sometimes feel that by taking care of things for my kids, I'm showing them how much I love them. But maybe I need to stop doing that so much.

Ultimately, we're not doing ourselves or our kids any favors by doing everything for them. If they share a bathroom, they can learn to clean it. They can help with laundry. They can learn to be responsible for their own stuff. (Editor's note: I learned in one of my fancy schmancy Child Development text books that kids as young as two years-old should be expected to help regularly with household chores. That means you can set the expectation now and have 16 years of help around the house. Weeeee! -Guru Louise)

Of course, at first that means a lot more work for you. And patience - OY VAY - the patience it will take to do this. Because I can sweep the kitchen in about 5 minutes. When the kids do it, it takes 20 minutes and they miss about half the dirt.

But the point is - I didn't have to do it. And here's another perspective to consider:
"My mother-in-law is Italian – like, way Italian. And she never allowed my husband to step into the kitchen or even make his own bed growing up. Now I have a partner who can’t boil water, scrub a toilet, or do a load of laundry. I taught him how to clean a bathroom when we were still dating – and he was 35 years old! Gaaah! I love the man desperately, but he’s completely useless when it comes to anything domestic."
Item #3: Learn to say No
I hate to say no (unless it's to my husband). If someone from my kids' school asks me to do something, I'm nearly always going to say yes. Because I can. But lately, I just can't. And then in addition to feeling stressed that I don't have any time, I feel guilty that I said no. So I loved this comment:
"Say no. Why are you volunteering at school when you could be at home mending the holes in your sanity? Seriously, make a resolution to say no at least once per week, and go up from there. There are TONS of moms out there who haven't showed up for library duty, like, ever - and no one cares. No one has even noticed. Just stop extending yourself for other people unless it's something so important you're willing to let everything else go to hell for a bit."
It doesn't just apply to volunteering to help with kid stuff, either. It's making the choice to take on less. I think this comment actually wraps up all three of the umbrella concepts really, really well and is incredibly smart:
"I've learned (the HARD way, of course) to stop whenever I'm feeling stressed or rushed or overwhelmed and ask myself what I'm feeling pressured to do at this moment that is exceeding my limits of time, energy (or $ or goodwill or whatever limit I have). Then I think REALLY HARD about whether I actually have to do that thing. Maybe I can do it later or in a different way or just not at all. Get ruthless about it and say no, buy instead of bake.
Let others actually experience the logical consequences of their choices by not killing yourself to rescue them (yes, even your kids). There is only so much time and energy in a day. Even if I can't take any major responsibilities off my plate, I can always find something I'm pressuring myself to do (or letting others pressure me to do) that can be done differently or not at all, and it keeps me sane to make those evaluations and choices every time I feel my stress level make my blood pressure rise."
Tomorrow, we move onto the problems areas we all need help with (things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, organization and managing the kiddos).

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Best Baby Ever

All my kids had the same first word. That word was "DADA" and while they are all precious and adorable, it also makes them horrible little ingrates. And that's also why this is the best baby ever:

You may have seen this before and you have, I apologize. But it's so stinking cute I just had to post it.

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Five Reasons The Beautiful Spring Weather is Kicking My Ass

The weather has been amazing this past week. Flowers blooming, sun shining, warm breezes blowing... It's unbelievably lovely and reminds me of how every year the earth renews itself and how we can do the same thing... And then something clicks in my brain. And it reminds me that there's another side to Spring prematurely ejaculating all over my neighborhood.

1. The Unpleasant Motor Vehicle Olfactory Reminder
I thought my van was clean. Maybe not clean. Maybe more like "not embarrassing". And then we had three days in a row of warm weather. And I opened up my car door and was greeted with a smell that reminded me that in the winter - it takes a lot longer for an undiscovered milk-box to sour and become the most disgusting, rancid thing in the world. If you combine that with the smell of dog, a bag of trash containing used pull-ups, and some other stuff that I can't even contemplate without chuking, you have a general idea of what I'm talking to.

2. Attempting to Keep My Offspring From Appearing Insane and/or Raised by Wolves
How do you explain to your child that although it was 70 degrees and sunny yesterday, they may not wear flip flops and shorts to school today? Because although yesterday was springtime perfection, today flurries are expected and if I let you wear that to school, they will call County Services and I do NOT need that to happen. Particularly when my van smells like there's a corpse in it because someone forgot to throw out their turkey sandwich last week and I haven't found it yet.

3. The Mystery of the Outer Layer
Some people would very wisely advise that solving the problem of apparel when it is icy cold in the morning and warm and sunny by lunchtime, would be to deploy a layering strategy. That's what I thought, too. That strategy however, has led to the mysterious disappearance of an entire generation of hoodies, light jackets and long-sleeved shirts. Where do they go? Perhaps to the same far away land as the hundreds of gloves that went missing this winter. The main difference? Gloves are $1/pair and hoodies are $20 a piece. I can grudgingly accept the loss of a few gloves, particularly as I now buy them in bulk. But hoodies, sweatshirts and jackets?? NO SIR. I must now mount a search party which will meet at the base of Mt. LostandFound in the elementary school cafeteria, where I pray I will be successful in both finding lost jackets and avoiding headlice.

4. Why Is Mommy So Scary Right Now?
This is very magical graphiti from our town.
Seasonal mutherfunking allergies. Right now I have allergy-induced pink eye. OOZING PINK EYE. Because of pollen. The kids are sneezy and miserable and somehow their symptoms always seem to magically worsen at the exact moment that I need them to go to sleep at night or I will lose my ever-loving mind. And of course, coughing and dripping means that no one is actually sleeping. And moreover, I can't take anti-histamines because my body reacts to them the same way it does to Jack Daniels. So I just have to deal with the allergies and crazy eyes and the not ever sleeping. And hookers, it ain't pretty. Because I look like I got into a fight with a Zombie Lionel Ritchie and I lost.

5. And Randy the Laundry Fairy Rejoiced
In the winter, if I forget that I have a load of laundry in the wash for a day or two - nothing happens. When it becomes warm and lovely again - I have exactly 24 hours before the funk sets in. Less than that if there's towels involved. My towels are very special. They seem to be specially engineered to acquire the funky smell and never, ever let it go. Hence, it becomes normal for me to wash the same load of laundry three times. The laundry situation completely blows up when Seasonal Clothing Migration becomes imminent. When you need to keep both cold weather clothes handy because it could still snow, but you also need t-shirts because right now it's hot out. And when this happens... the terrorists have won. And by terrorists, I mean laundry.

And those are the five reasons why the beautiful spring weather, with all its warm, breezy, daffodil-y beauty... is kicking my ass. If you want to read four more reasons, you can check 'em out here on Strollerderby.

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Least Annoying TV Shows for Medium Sized Kids

Last week on Facebook, I asked you guys about the TV shows that your kids liked. Here's my problem - my oldest wants to watch shows like Fred, Victorious and iCarly. If I let her, she starts behaving like (as my grandmother from Trenton, NJ would say) "a house-devil with a fresh mouth". I'm not a hater and I know plenty of people that really dig those tween shows, they just don't work for us right now.

Meanwhile, Hawk (my 6 year old) only wants to watch shows where everyone is constantly punching each other in the face or the product placement is so out of control that I wonder why they bother to run commercials at all (Power Rangers, Lego Ninjago and Kickin' It).

And my youngest? Dora. (Insert silent scream)

What I was looking for was something we could all watch together, that wasn't too annoying, didn't promote douchey behavior, wasn't too babyish and wasn't too grown-up. We got hundred of comments and I tallied them up and combined the top picks with some editor's and parents' selections from Common Sense Media. I posted a Babble slideshow* of the top 20, along with descriptions and commentary and general stupidity. You can check it out here.

I never would have thought of this one!
  1. Phineas and Ferb (Disney Channel)
  2. Good Luck Charlie (Disney Channel)
  3. Mythbusters (Discovery Channel)
  4. Food Network (For example, Cupcake Wars)
  5. Wild Kratts (PBS Kids)
  6. Animal Planet (For example, Dog101 or Meerkate Manor)
  7. Word Girl (PBS)
  8. Shaun the Sheep (Disney Channel)
  9. Avatar the Last Airbender (Nickelodeon)
  10. How It’s Made (Discovery Channel)
  11. Full House (ABC Family)
  12. Scooby Doo (Cartoon Network)
  13. Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman (PBS)
  14. Lab Rats (Disney XD)
  15. Oceans Blue (Planet Green)
  16. Sci Girls (PBS)
  17. Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman (The Travel Channel)
  18. Majors and Minors (The Hub)
  19. The Sing-Off (NBC)
  20. American Idol (Fox)
And since we're talking about kids and stuff to watch, I posted two movie reviews this week. Read what 3 little kids have to say about two movies currently in theaters. Are they worth the money to see or should you wait for DVD/On Demand?

Hi. I like you.
The Lorax
Adorable Dr. Seuss movie? Scary environmental propaganda? Or just an average, over-priced book adaptation?

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Is it worth paying $10 a ticket to watch The Rock flex his pecs? Well... They are pretty nice pecs.

*A note about Babble slideshows... It's come to my attention that some of you don't like them, in part because the clicking is annoying and in part because they look wonky on some mobile devices. Wherever possible, I will try and post some of the slideshow content here in list form so it's easier for you to read. I can't post identical content on both places though, because that's against the rules.

I know the slideshow format isn't for everyone but Babble really likes that format and I seriously wake up grateful every, single day that I work for such an awesome website. Plus, I'm a nerd and I enjoy doing them. That's what she said. So, anyhoo - just letting you know that I hear ya and I'll try really hard to work around your concerns.

xo, Lydia
(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Help this Woman: Can You Make My Life Easier?

I'm pretty close to becoming a crazy cat lady.
I need your advice. Currently, I'm working basically full-time. I have two part time jobs that pay me, I also have this blog, I have three kids, I have a delightful husband, I have a home, I help out in my kids' classrooms. I don't have any sort of formal daycare arrangement. So most of my work I do after the kids go to sleep or the two mornings a week that Mini is at preschool. I am losing my mind.

I know I'm not even special. Everyone is in a near-constant state of being overwhelmed, right? Please say yes. But I can't shake the feeling that there are people out there doing it all so much better than I am. Living a life that is organized and serene, without frenetic flapping about or excessive boob-stains.

By the way, if you're wondering why I'm working two jobs right now, I sort of explain it here.

It may also be a function of my recent obsession with Pinterest. Because I see things there and I'm like: "WHUCK?? Why have I have never thought about doing that before? That would make my life so much easier. Here's an excellent example:

GAH!! If I could just get all my hoarded cats better organized...

Just kidding, I was actually talking more about this:

Apparently, these are pre-made meals for the crockpot. Which you then freeze and use whenever you need them.
You can check out all kinds of stuff like this on my Pinterest Board "Imma Try Dat".

So here is my request: What do you do to make your life easier? Do you have tips? Tricks? Schedules or lists? Reward charts? Things you have to do the night before? Things you know about dinner? Have you found the Achilles' heel of Randy the Laundry Fairy?

The deal is this, if I don't start getting better at being a grown-up, I'm going to have give up TV, Words with Friends, Facebook, wine and blogging. And then what's left? So now you see how serious this situation has become.

Like with the marriage/relationship post, I'll write a post putting together all of your invaluable and amazeballs feedback and suggestions.

I thank you most sincerely.
xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Job Interview Panic Attack

As you guys know, I’m a proud stay-at-home mom, even though it’s not the most glamorous or appreciated job. Lydia already covered this topic and I agree with everything she wrote in that post because she is a damn genius. In spite of my SAHM pride, a few months ago I started to get that itch to go back to work outside my house.

I’m not sure what caused the itchiness…my youngest is turning 2 and has started losing his last shred of baby-ness and will soon be off to school…or maybe it was that the tax forms reminded me I hadn’t contributed to our annual household income AGAIN…or was it that I am hitting my four (FOUR!) year anniversary of being at home…or maybe it was just that feeling of general unimportance that settles over a stay-at-home mom from time to time.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my job is very, very important to the people in this house and to those who love us. But sometimes I miss that sensation of coming home, walking through my front door and feeling like I was out all day kicking ass in the real, big world out there.

So I started getting the itch (gross) and I sent out a few resumes for part-time jobs. Even just sending those out made me feel a million times better. Yeah, until I didn’t get a call back. That part sucked. These were jobs I was legitimately qualified to do and I didn’t even get a smidge of interest from the employers. It was such a blow to my ego that I entered a self-doubt spiral. It wasn’t pretty.

As you may imagine, it involved a lot of moping about how no one will ever hire me because I’ve been out of the workforce too long…and the kids have stolen all my energy and most of my IQ. I tried to hide my mini-depression but my new friend Lulu (mom to three kids under five years-old and a SAHM) called me out on it. She emailed me and was all, ‘What’s wrong with you this week? You seem so sad!’ So I emailed her this image (found by my husband through Stumbled Upon) back as a response:

Her email reply read, “My husband is working late. Do you and the kids want to come for a late play date and stay for dinner? We can drink our way through it.” (You can see why I’m friends with her, no?)

Well, I think Lulu’s meatloaf and wine has actual, magical powers because the I got a call for a job interview! Squeeeeeeeeeee! I was right in the middle of simultaneously emailing my husband the news, calling Lulu, and doing an M.C. Hammer dance of joy (which Kate once witnessed in a Target parking lot) when I froze like a deer in headlights.
What the crap?? I have to go on a job interview!!! What followed was a three-phase freak-out over the course of one week:

Phase One: Arranging Childcare (a.k.a. Take my children! PLEASE!)
The interview was on a Friday afternoon and I have a great babysitter who can come on Fridays, but only until 4:30pm and then she has to leave for class so what if I’m not back in time because there might be traffic on the Mass Pike (who am I kidding, of COURSE there will be traffic on the Pike) so maybe I can get my fabulous next door neighbor to come over at 4:20pm and relieve my sitter so the kids are covered and my sitter doesn’t hate me for making her late. Uuuuh, holy schmidt, this childcare thing is really complicated. But I figured it out! At least for one day.

Phase Two: Wardrobe (a.k.a. Finding Pants without an Elastic Waistband)
On this blog there is a spectrum of Mom Fashion: Lydia’s end (where yoga pants and clogs are considered playground-chic) and Kate’s end (where you wear your four-inch Choos and a gorgeous designer dress out…to the Wegmans). On this grand spectrum I fall strongly on the Lydia side. I do not wear clogs and yoga pants but I do regularly wear the same pair of old jeans that are so droopy in the butt it looks like I just took a dump. I pair those stunners with a hoodie and some seven year-old brown sauchony sneakers that should probably be burned. (I can hear Kate lighting a match right now…!)

Clearly, this was not going to fly for a job interview. And needless to say all my pre-child work clothes don’t fit at all. So that weekend I spent a solid two hours wandering around TJ Maxx trying to familiarize myself with new trends in what I call “grown-up clothes” because I wanted to look and feel great for my interview!

Here’s what I learned: there is not much made in fleece anymore. (Editor’s note: I think Kate just dropped dead. From horror. –Lydia) And I’m perplexed by the skinny belt. It looks cute but seems impractical and it makes my hips look big. I started freaking out about an hour into the trip and left with three different outfits and the return policy in-hand. After emailing photos of all of them to my besties they agreed on a simple blazer and cute dress pants. Simple, professional, classic, and aaaalmost affordable.

Phase Three: Reviving My Brain (a.k.a. making Louise look like less of a freakin’ idiot)
The night before the interview I was confirming my babysitter and watching my husband iron my cute new dress pants (oh yes) and feeling pretty damn good about myself…and then I had yet another wave of panic: what if all those jokes I cracked about being an idiot were TRUE?? I broke into a flop sweat. What if my interviewer asks me a simple theoretical question…one I would have nailed five years ago fresh my M.A. program…but tomorrow all that comes out when I open my mouth are the lyrics to the Dinosaur Train theme song?? GAH!!!

In a flurry I slithered under my bed and found three old text books and started frantically flipping through them, as if cramming for an exam. Then I hopped on the company’s website and started memorizing their mission statement, in hopes that some of their key words would replace phrases in my normal lexicon, such as ‘Pinkalicious’, ‘chicken nugget’ and ‘rectal temp’.

All in all, my panics and freak-outs were both unavoidable and completely necessary. When I walked in to that interview I held my head high having successfully overcome my mom obstacles. I had orchestrated patchwork childcare! I got dressed in nice clothes and wore a bra! I was prepared to use fancy words and have a solid 65% chance of using them accurately!

My last thought as I opened the door to the fancy office building was this: “Nothing is harder than the time I had to clean up one kid’s puke while puking on myself and cooking the other kid dinner…!” In that instant I realized staying at home has made me tough. Resilient. Creative. Industrious. I have a whole new set of life-skills to add to my resume. After all my moping and whining about being irrelevant it turns out being a SAHM is actually really excellent training…and besides, if they don’t give me the job I’ll just send them all to Time Out.

p.s. I got the job! I'M TOO LEGIT!

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Ellen Update

The three of us at the TAP-stravaganza!
I wrote a letter to my very dear friend Ellen about how badly it sucks that she must now beat breast cancer like rented mule. But she can totally do it.

First of all - THANK YOU. Thank you for your prayers and support and love and best wishes. I felt them and I know her family did too.

I thought you might want to know how she's doing. She came through surgery really well. Here's some more good news - her lymph nodes are clear - no cancer. For those of you who've been through this, you know what good news that is. Kate actually cried with relief when she found. CRIED. That should tell you how much we love her because, come on - Kate doesn't cry.

One of the comments on the letter to Ellen was from Von, who knew exactly who Ellen was from all the posts here on Mommyland where she has been the star. I thought I'd try to put them all in one place so you could read about her greatness. I've probably forgotten a few, so please just remind if you remember one that I didn't include.

And of course, if you want to keep tabs on her directly, here's the link to her blog.

#1: The Story About The Big Dead Bird
(Where Ellen is brave but also throws up in her mouth)

#2: The One Where Ellen De-Craps My House
(And basically lifts couches all by herself)

#3: The T-Box Taste Test
(Where Ellen was the ONLY one who stayed sober and the rest of us got falling down drunk)

#4: When We Threw A Kids Party Together
(And it was awesome but a total cluster)

#5: When I almost Got Killed Renting a Bouncy House
(And Ellen laughed her ass off at my expense)

#6: Chatting in the Cul-de-Sac
(And Ellen dropping a now classic TWSS)

#7: When She Advised me About Going on Live TV
(And sadly, she was so right)

#8: Our Kids Play Toilet Tag
(And kick each other in the throat, ok - MY KIDS, but she was there)

#9: When Ellen Gave me Pajama Jeans
(and then took about a hundred pictures of my ass)

#10: My weepy Letter
(where I mention her moving away and how much I love her)

#11: Where I Beg You All To Pray for Her
(because we need her to be healthy and live to be an old lady, so we can be old lady friends)

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oh the Places You'll Go

Dear Ellen,

Last fall, when you moved to the other side of the world, I really wanted to buy you a book by Dr. Seuss. I am fully aware of how weird that is. Ironically, today is Dr. Seuss' birthday but that has nothing really to do with this letter.

I wanted to send you this book because I felt like it was perfect for the adventure that you and your dashing husband and your three beautiful daughters were about to embark on, in a far off land on the other side of the world. And even though we would never again be three houses away from each other, hollering across the back yard fence - I was so happy for you all that you got to go. To live your dream.
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!"
And I knew it would be challenging in ways that you hadn't anticipated. And I worried that it might not be as fun as you'd imagined - all that change at once. Everything so different. But I had faith that you would make it awesome. That you would appreciate each new day of your adventure. And you did.
"It's opener there, in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you."
And things did happen there. You saw things and smelled things. And ate things. And you made new friends and made new plans and were well on your way to making a new home. And then you found a lump.

And they sent you back the US by yourself, without your beloved family, to get it checked. And they told you it was breast cancer. And then you told all of us. All of us here who love you. And we all sort of fell apart while you stayed tough and pragmatic and strong. And the only crack in your armor seems to be the fact that they are there and you are here. And you will not see that dashing man and those three beautiful girls again for a while.
"I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot."
I worry now about you being away from your sacred, small family. I also worry that you're scared. Isn't it funny how scared and sacred are practically the same word? I always mistype them. I'm not the first to see the connection between those two words but right now it feels like it. And I have a feeling that in the months to come, all those who love you will be experiencing those moments - those scared, sacred moments. Where we have to face what's happening to this family we love. And our hearts will fill up and our eyes will fill up and we'll say a prayer.

But those scared, sacred moments will really be yours alone.
"And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on."
When I get worried about this, there is one thought that sustains me. The fact that you are a tiny, hardcore, ass-kicking ninja. And though you're scared, everyone who knows you knows this: You're braver than you're scareder. You will kick this cancer's ass the same way you've beaten every other shitty thing life has thrown at you.
"But on you will go, though the weather be foul.
On you will go, though your enemies prowl.
Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore, and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems, whatever they are.
They caught this early. You're strong and brave. You're going to be well and reclaim your amazing adventure. You will smoosh your girls with the sort of hugs that could possibly crack their ribs (because you're strong like Mighty Mouse and sometimes you forget that). You will have a really long, Hollywood style kiss with your handsome husband and no one will care that it's a little awkward because there are other people there watching. You're going to win.
"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


So today is the day your fighting really starts. Even though you've been in battle mode for several weeks and technically today is the wonderful Dr. Suess' birthday, it's really your day. Today you have the the surgery that will remove the cancer. And that's good.

Though I have to say - this is in many ways a horrible day. Because none of this should be happening to you. You should not have to move this mountain. The unfairness of it makes me want to scream and ugly sob and kickpunch. (Except that I tried to kickpunch that one time with you in the cul-de-sac and I fell down. Remember? I can only kickpunch if I'm doing it in slo-mo.) I hate that this is happening to you and your family. I hate that you're here in this scared, sacred moment today, though I know you will come through it beautifully.
"Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
This is also an amazing day, because you have doctors and technology and health insurance and people all over the world who love you so much. And honestly, this cancer has no idea who it's dealing with. But it's about to find out.
"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting.
So... Get on your way!"
I'm praying for you, for your husband and daughters, for the people in that far away land who are helping to care for them, for the family here in the US who is caring for you, for your surgeon, your oncologist, everyone who will help to guide you through this. I'm praying my ass off.

You know that at any time, the Cap'n and I are happy to have you here. We have room. Right now being with your extended family on the left side of the country is where you need to be, but if you ever want to come back to the right side (and by that I mean the East Coast), we're ready to be here for you for as long as you need us.

And I'm so sorry. Sorry this is happening, sorry for every time in our friendship that I was ever a jerk. And very sorry I didn't buy you this book last fall, when it would have been describing another sort of adventure altogether.

Love you,

This is my beautiful friend.
Ellen was the first friend that Kate and I told about this blog. She was our first fan. She was the first person to "like" us on Facebook. She made Kate and I believe that we were sort of cool and refused to let us give up. She is the kind of friend you don't often get in life. She's the kind of mom who makes you want to love more. She is part of this and she is one of us and she is 30 years old and fighting for her life. Please, please pretty please pray for her - or send her your best wishes or whatever you're comfortable with. Because we need her.

This is the picture of us saying goodbye before she moved.

If you want to keep tabs on her, here is her blog.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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