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Budding Entrepreneurs

“Mom, we decided we want to have a car wash today.”

(Or the popular alternative, “Mom, we want to have a lemonade stand.”)

Words that make my heart sink. Because my first thought is, “That’s going to be so much work for me.”  And then my second thought is, “But I don’t want to dampen their entrepreneurial spirit. They’re trying to make some money, after all, and it’s a good lesson about hard work, and the way goods and services work.” Blah blah blah.. It’s kind of like the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

So I hem and haw and say things like, “Well, we have a lot to do today. Let’s see what time it is after we’re done with soccer and cleaning up your room (or insert another chore here)”.

I really hate to disappoint them. But them having a car wash means so much work for me. And it also means that I’m doing most of the work to wash the cars. (And let’s face it, I’m really just washing my own cars, because who would pay a 6 and a 9-year-old to wash their car anyway? So I’d be washing my own cars and then giving my children money for it.)

I hate squelching their ideas. I hate bringing reality into it. I really do. I want to be the mom that drops everything and helps her kids have a car wash. I imagine that Bill Gates had a mom like that. Entrepreneurial Mom. Spontaneous “let’s-drop-our-plans-for-today-and-have-a-carwash” Mom.

No, if my kids had a label for me, it would not be that. Errand Mom, yes. Planning Mom, yes. But not Spontaneous Mom.




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Purging the files

Last weekend, I purged my recipe file. I have this big green file folder that I use to store recipes. For the past 5 years or so (okay, maybe 10), I have been collecting recipes that looked good. And stuffing them into the file folder (organized into categories, of course. Sort of.) And I thought about it recently and realized that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, Emma would go through that file and instead of thinking fondly about the great family dinners we had, she would think, “Look at all these recipes that don’t even sound familiar.” So I decided to purge. This requires getting honest with yourself about what you’re never going to do. Kind of like going through your closet and getting red of anything you haven’t worn in a year. And here’s what I purged:

1. Any recipe for sorbet, ice cream, granita, sherbet, popsicles, or anything found in the frozen treats section. Easier to buy it. And probably better.

2. Anything that requires pounding something with a mallet.

3. Crock pot recipes for anything that is not intended to be served mushy. Because it always ends up mushy.

4. Anything that contains both chocolate and noodles.

5. Anything that has more than 10 ingredients. (Unless a) it’s for a special occasion and b) I’ve already made it so I know that it’s worth it.)

6. Anything that contains both fruit and meat. (I make an exception for apples and pork. Yum.)

7. Anything that has a jello-like consistency and isn’t jello. Like aspic.

8. Cold soup. (I know that some people like them. I don’t.)

9. 10 recipes for variations on “chicken in peanut sauce”. Because I have one that we all love and who needs more than one way to cook chicken in peanut sauce? Ditto for chicken enchiladas.

10. Candy. There are lots of professional candy makers who can make it better than I can. And that whole candy thermometer thing is a pain.

I got rid of about half of my recipes. In all honesty, I probably could have gotten rid of 3/4. But it’s a start.

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Decisions, decisions

My heart is breaking over the situation at Penn State, which seems to get worse by the minute. As a native Pennsylvanian and lifelong Penn State fan in a family of Penn State fans, I cannot believe the horror of it all.

Joe Paterno made a really bad decision. Or more likely, a series of really bad decisions. And he deserved to be fired over it, and I’m glad the Board did what it did.

But I feel very sorry for him. And I think it’s okay to feel both those things at once.

Think about a time in your life when you made a bad decision. (You’ve made them. We all have. It’s part of the human condition.) Did you say to yourself, “Wow. This seems like a really bad decision. I’m going to do it anyway”? Probably not. If you’re like me, you made that decision thinking that, based on everything you knew at the time, it was the best decision to make. My bad decisions are always clearly bad in the rearview mirror. And so are yours. But in the moment, they seemed like the right thing to do.

Fortunately, most of us are not in situations where our bad decisions will harm a lot of people. Usually it’s just ourselves and those we love who are lucky enough to deal with the fallout of our bad decisions.

I don’t know the circumstances around Joe Paterno’s decision not to go to the police. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe his good friend Jerry Sandusky tearfully begged him not to go to the police…and swore that he would never do it again. Maybe he was afraid that the whole Penn State football empire would crumble. (Which it now has.) I don’t know, and you don’t know, and we’ll probably never understand it. But I believe that he made the decision believing that it was the best decision to make at the time.

He’s 84 years old. He has spent 46 years building something that has now been ruined overnight. He will never recover – he simply doesn’t have enough time left.

So maybe just a little compassion is in order?


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The way things are supposed to be

I recently heard a remark. One that I’ve heard many times before. One that’s difficult to disagree with. Someone was praising a young woman who called off her engagement, saying, “At least she called it off before they got married and brought children into the world.”

Now it’s possible that I’m a tad bit sensitive on this topic, having had two marriages that produced children and then ended in divorce. I do feel the sting of such comments. And I’m so grateful for the exact people that my children are, that I can’t imagine a world without them. And I don’t regret the choices I’ve made.

And when I hear people make comments like, “At least the person didn’t do ____”,  “Thank goodness she didn’t do ____”, I realize how my philosophy of all of that has changed in the past several years.

I’ve come to believe that things play out the way they’re supposed to. The way they’re meant to. The way they just do. Not good or bad. That young woman called off her wedding because it was supposed to play out that way.  Because millions of years ago, for whatever reason, things were set in motion. And each generation shaped the next generation. And as a result of all of that history, each of us came to be who were meant to be. To behave the way we behave because of the forces – parents, friends, circumstances – that shaped our lives. That our parents acted the way they acted because of the forces that shaped their lives. And so on. Back through the generations.

I stop short of calling it predestination. Short of believing in some grand being who knows in advance how everything will play out and watches it all happen. Because then you get into the whole, “how could a loving God allow all those bad things to happen” discussion, and I don’t have good answers, and then it gets icky.

And it’s not to say that we’re just puppets in some big “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” episode (sorry, I’m showing my age here), unable to make our own choices. We are able to make choices. And we do. It’s just that there are reasons why we make the choices we do.

I don’t second-guess the past (much, anyway.) I try to learn from it and move on. I try to inflict as little damage as possible (sometimes unsuccessfully.) But I don’t wish that things had been different. Because they were what they were.

And they are what they are.


Filed under Gratitude, Uncategorized

The one where David learns to swim

When Emma was a baby, I threw away all the parenting books. Because I decided that many people who were a lot stupider than me had successfully raised children, and if I trusted my gut, I would probably be okay. (I actually did think those exact thoughts. This was obviously before I learned humility and became the compassionate person I am today.)

And usually when I trust my gut, I’m okay. (And when I talk myself out of what my gut is telling me, I get into all kinds of trouble. But that’s a topic for another day.)

But sticking to what my gut tells me to do is still scary, painful and very unpleasant at times.

David has learned to swim. Not that he has a beautiful stroke or anything. But swim as in “if he falls into deep water he can get himself out without drowning.” Which when you get down to it is really the most important thing when it comes to swimming.

In four weeks, he has gone from crying every night on the way to swim lessons to telling me how much he can’t wait to go to swim lessons and wanting to practice his swimming every chance he gets.  In four weeks, he’s gone from saying, “Why does Margaret get to stay in Level 1 and I have to go to Level 2?” to saying, “Don’t worry, Margaret. Someday you’ll get to be in Level 2.” (Not that she looked worried.)

In four weeks, he is like a different kid.

Many of you know that I almost relented. I was thisclose to telling him he didn’t have to do it. Thisclose to not being able to stand the breathless sobbing all the way from camp to the pool. Four nights a week. For four weeks. And when he wasn’t crying, he was complaining.

But something told me that if I stayed calm, and told him overandoverandover that he could do it, told him to think about how good he’d feel after he proved to himself he could do it, that it would be okay.

I will be eternally grateful to Derek – the patient, kind – yet firm – college student who helped David overcome his fear. (Not that Derek was too thrilled about it in the beginning. He told one of Emma’s friends that he specifically signed up for Level 2 so he wouldn’t have any criers, and he was not too happy that he had a crier.)

Now if I could just get Derek to come to my house and convince David to take the training wheels off his bike.

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Risking it

As I’ve been thinking about and praying for Abby Sunderland over the last 24 hours, I’ve been thinking about the parental “risk spectrum.”

On one end are parents who don’t let their 16-year old daughter drive around the block alone. On the other end are parents who let their 16-year-old daughter sail around the world alone.

Note that the purpose of this post is not to bash the parents who let their daughter sail around the world alone. While I don’t understand it, I don’t know them, their daughter, or any of the circumstances, so it’s not my place to comment on it.

Making decisions about what’s an acceptable level of risk is hard. It’s sometimes agonizing for me.

I will never forget the day I put Emma on a plane by herself for the first time and then cried the whole way home. (She was 10.) Or the day I let her go on the el by herself for the first time (which was actually scarier than the plane, because there was no el employee to hand her off to, and no one waiting for her on the other end.)

I probably have a higher level of risk tolerance than many parents. In general, I don’t think the world is a more dangerous place than it used to be, as I’ve written about here. I did let Emma go on a plane by herself, and I did let her ride the el by herself. I didn’t put those plastic bumpers on the edges of the coffee table, and my kids had the bruises to show for it. I hate to admit it, but I don’t make my kids wear bike helmets when they’re riding up and down the sidewalk (when they ride in the street, yes). And we now have a trampoline in the back yard.

But regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I think making daily decisions about how much risk you can tolerate is one of the hardest tasks of parenting.

I wish I could just have my set of rules to refer to. That would make it neat and tidy. This is ok. This is not ok. But the fact is that the decisions are situational and based on the individual kid. What I’m ok with for Emma, I may not be ok with for Margaret when the time comes. (No, let me restate that. What I’m ok with for Emma, I can say with absolute certainty I will not be ok with for Margaret.)

I guess we all just do the best we can. And then close our eyes and pray.

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Don’t just do something, sit there

Since this is one of my favorite slogans, you’d think I’d do a better job remembering and living it.  And yet, as I sit here in my living room with sweat running down my back from goingtoJewelrunningtothehardwarestorechangingthecatlitterloadingthedishwasherandmarinatingthesteak, I’m reminded that I did it again.

Yet again, I’ve entered the weekend with list in hand, ready to GET THINGS DONE.  As if the goal of the weekend (or life, for that matter) was to see how much can be accomplished in a limited amount of time. Even though I know from the experience of hundreds of weekends that when I treat the weekend as a race to the finish line, I spend Monday tired and irritable.

I come from a family where efficiency was important. If you had suggested to my dad that perhaps doing something (mowing the lawn, running errands, getting to the cottage) as efficiently as possible wasn’t the main objective, he would have looked at you as if you had two heads.  With my dad (and with his dad) there wasn’t a lot of stopping to smell the roses.  Taking a different route just to get a different perspective.  Worrying about how the paneling actually looked vs. how quickly it could be done. (Guess what? The paneling didn’t look very good.)

So I come by it honestly. But that makes the habit that much harder to break.

To my credit, I’m making progress. Yesterday, I played Chutes and Ladders with the kids and it wasn’t even on the list. (Not that it was relaxing though, since I REALLY hate playing Chutes and Ladders. Maybe it’s because all that back-sliding down the chutes is so inefficient.) I had a lovely impromptu dinner outside with my friends.

So now I’m done for the weekend. As soon as I fold the laundry. And grill the steak. Okay, maybe I’m not completely done, but I’m definitely resting until 5:00.

And yes, “write a blog post” was on the list.

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