Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How to be in Two Places at Once (chicken e-mail)

Dear Pearl,

I’m sorry to get your hopes up with that subject line, but there really is no possible way to be in two places at once. You’ll just have to chose between tonight’s multitudinous options. You can:

1. Take Landon to Dr. Seuss night at the elementary school.

2. Play in the church basketball game for hens. (By the way, you got your feathers ruffled a bit last time. Maybe this would be a good one to skip tonight.)

3. Attend the informative and important talk for parents sponsored by the PTA (poultry teacher association) and health department -- “Sex has a price tag.” I’ll understand if you can’t make it to this evening that I’ve spent months and months organizing and fretting over, but if there really were a contraption to make it possible to be in two places at once, the talk is a don’t-miss kind of thing. I mean, your little brood faces all sorts of things in the intimacy department that we were sheltered from. Those little chicks will be hens and roosters before you know it.

Oh, speaking of the talk, thanks for letting me know that the word is getting out. After I heard that the presiding rooster of a regional church meeting announced it over the pulpit I crowed for joy! We might actually have more than 30 parents there tonight! Whew!

(Note: Bug wondered if the religious rooster mentioned the actual title of the talk– “Sex has a price tag.” He asked, “Do you think he said the ‘S’ word?” Beans was shocked, “You mean he said the word that starts with “sh” in a church meeting?! We assured her that the word she was thinking of surely was NOT said in church. Wish I knew about the word from the title. I can just imagine how that would go over. Giggle.)

In other news, there is no other news. I am finally getting things cleaned up around the coop now that I’m getting adjusted to having a puppy here at the farm. She’s a handful! If she goes wee-wee in the coop one more time I think I’ll spit. (By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever pecked out “wee-wee” on the computer. It made me giggle. There, I did it again.)

Good luck with tonight’s busy schedule. Too bad your husband has interviews scheduled at the church. It really must be challenging to be the bishop’s wife. Pearl, you’re a saint!

Scratch with you later, Queenie

Monday, February 26, 2007

Patience Report #3: The Battle of the Bulge

Now that I’m getting a handle on being patient with my family members, my body decided to throw me a curve. Or love handles, as the case may be.

Just over a year ago I joined Weight Watchers and began losing weight. (See my entry from Oct. 11, 2006 which chronicles my weight over my lifetime.) At first the pounds came off with regularity, but I’ve been stuck since I wrote that entry in October. In an effort to stay motivated I graphed my weight loss and put it on the fridge. But after a four month plateau period, watching the line go up and down, up and down, up and up, down again -- the graph became a reminder of my lack of success. I began to doubt that I’d ever reach my weight loss goal.

My attitude with weight loss has been anything but patient. I want to lose weight, and I want it to happen NOW! But my body has other plans. My outlook keeps fluctuating between determination and resignation. If not for attending the Weight Watcher meetings and hearing about other members’ struggles and successes, I’d probably have thrown in the towel.

This week’s meeting addressed the need for positive thinking, and not falling victim to perfectionist thinking. My own perfectionist thoughts run something like this:

I’ve blown it today, I might as well enjoy a week off from dieting. It’s my fault that the pounds aren’t coming off. I must not be exercising enough. If I’ve overeaten at breakfast, I might as well take the rest of the day off. If I can’t be perfect, I might as well give up.

How’s that for patience?

One quote that our leader had written on the board really hit home. And seeing how Winston Churchill and I have both fought the Battle of the Bulge, I can relate.

"Don’t let perfectionist thinking hold you back from what you want most. The maxim, ‘Nothing avails but perfection,’ may be spelled ‘paralysis’." – Winston Churchill

So now I’m trying to recognize when I’m being too demanding of myself, and I’m trying to anticipate my tendencies toward negative self-talk.

A few weeks ago I went shopping for a pair of jeans. I’d been putting off the purchase until I’d lost enough weight to wear the next pant size down from my current pair. Imagine my surprise when I found that I could wear a size 12. A size 12!! I haven’t been able to zip up a size twelve since I started having children over thirteen years ago.

A man at one of our Weight Watchers meetings said that when he’s feeling discouraged he goes into his closet and tries on the pair of pants he wore when he first joined Weight Watchers. Hearing him, I felt a little sad that I hadn’t kept some of my original "fat" pants. As I lost weight, I gave all my too-big clothes away as extra incentive to keep the pounds off.

Just yesterday I realized that there was one pair of "fat" pants that I hadn’t given away. They’d gotten a hole in them so I’d tossed them into my scrap denim pile. This morning I pulled them out, took them to my Weight Watchers meeting and had the class celebrate my new pant size with me.

So the scale still says I weigh 168 lbs. So what! I’ve come to know that all the exercise and weight training I’ve been doing in my aerobics classes have changed my body composition. Muscle weighs more than fat, and my size 12 jeans prove it!

Friday, February 23, 2007

"I Love You More . . ."

Note: This essay is included in the newest book from Chicken Soup for the Soul – "Chicken Soup for the Mother and Daughter’s Soul" that will be in bookstores in March of 2007. I’m excited and really feel grateful that my daughter gave me a glimpse of perfect love back in the fall of 2000. – Christie

Meet my daughter, Loula Belle. Four years old and a fount of knowledge. The other day she was reciting a list of all the facts and tidbits she has memorized. One plus one is two. If you mix yellow paint with blue you get green. Penguins can’t fly. . . . On and on she went.

Finally, she finished. "Mom," she said, looking very smug, "I know everything."
I let on as if I believed her, but chuckled to myself thinking of all the this and thats that a four-year-old child couldn’t possible know. Comparing her four years to my almost three decades of life experiences, I felt sure I knew what she knew and then some.

Within a week, I’d learn I was wrong.

It all began as we were standing in front of the bathroom mirror, me fixing Amanda’s fine, blonde hair. I was putting in the final elastic of a spunky pair of pony tails and finished with, "I love you, Lou."

"And, I love you," she replied.

"Oh, yeah," I taunted, "well I love you more."

Her eyes lit up as she recognized the cue for the start of another "I love you more" match. "Nuh-uh," she laughed, "I love you the most."

"I love you bigger than a volcano!" I countered – a favorite family phrase in these battles of love.

"But mom, I love you from here to China." A country she’s learning about thanks to our new neighbors up the street.

We volleyed back and forth a few favorite lines. I love you more than peanut butter. . . . Well, I love you more than television. . . . I even love you more than bubble gum.

It was my turn again, and I made the move that usually brings victory. "Too bad chickadee. I love you bigger than the universe!" On this day, however, Loula Belle was not going to give up. I could see she was thinking.

"Mom," she said in a quiet voice, "I love you more than myself."

I stopped. Dumbfounded. Overwhelmed by her sincerity.

Here I thought that I knew more than she did. I thought I knew at least everything that she knew. But I didn’t know this.

My four-year-old daughter knows more about love than her twenty-eight-year-old mom. And somehow she loves me more than herself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Queenie's Ski Report

Don’t look now, but I went skiing yesterday. And like Thursday, it was a rush! I was visiting with Marge Seeholtzer, one of the owners of Beaver Mountain, the resort where I have my season pass. I was explaining how I’d returned to skiing after a 14 year absence. "I’m like a lost sheep that’s come back to the fold," I told her. Of course that’s not true. I’m a chicken.

But skiing again feels wonderful! On both Thursday and yesterday as I was shooshing over the freshly fallen snow, I couldn’t help but let out a loud series of whoops. "Whoooo-eeeee! Yeee-haaa!" I felt like breaking into song, but no suitable songs came to mind. I informed my friends that I was skiing with that I’m a gusher. Whatever I’m feeling is going to gush right out my mouth. "Wheeee!"

At one point on Thursday as the wind was sending snow off the pines and the sun was filtering through the aspens, I felt as if I were in a Velamints commercials – the one where a woman puts a mint in her mouth against the backdrop of a gorgeous winter landscape. Everywhere I looked it was beautiful! And on some runs I was enveloped in the fresh smell of pine trees. The experience was beyond wonderful!

Part of the fun yesterday was getting to spend time skiing with my daughter, Loula Belle. Four fifth grade classes from her school came up to ski, and after they were done with ski instruction, I skied a few runs with Lou and her friends. I was pleased to find that she’s becoming a fine skier. I was also able to report to Rusty, the safety rooster, that she seemed to know her limits and didn’t shoot straight down the runs like one of her friends did. Whew!

Yesterday I skied the last runs of the day with a neighbor, Julie. She too was returning to skiing after a long absence. She used to ski a lot before she was married and had kids, but the realities of caring for a young family put skiing beyond her financial reach. Boy could I relate. But like so many stages in life, it came to pass.

I love that phrase, "it came to pass." It’s a frequent phrase in the Book of Mormon, and every time I read it I like to remind myself that it applies to my life. Nothing comes to stay. Everything comes to pass.

Whenever I’m struggling with something, I remind myself that it too will come to pass. Same thing applies to the good things in life. They come to pass too. So I might as well enjoy them now, savor each joy, live in the moment because they’re precious and fleeting.

Life, like a day skiing, has highs. Beauty. Even bliss. But it also has valleys and lows. I’d say that I’ve done a pretty good job learning from the lows in my life. I’m betting there are similar lessons to be learned from life’s highs. Because I spend so much time and energy scheduling, planning and crossing things off my to-do list, sometimes I forget to live in the present.

I’m going to let skiing remind me to work on that – to live in the present.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mother Hen Hits the Slopes . . .

Just for a minute I want you to picture a mother hen on skis. She’s a bit nervous, feels a little out of her element surrounded by snow covered slopes and ski lifts. And she’s only been skiing once in the last fourteen years. The skis look huge compared to her feathered frame, but she’s smiling.

That’s me! I’m going up skiing with some friends today. We’ll leave here in about 20 minutes and spend about 45 minutes driving up the canyon to the ski resort. And while I’m looking forward to bonding with friends, I’m feeling a bit chicken about hitting the slopes. I’m guessing it’s because I tore a knee ligament skiing in high school, and it wasn’t all that hard to do. It was just one of the four times I’ve had knee surgery on my left knee. Which reminds me . . . I almost forgot to pack my knee brace. I’d better go get it.

In light of my nerves, I’m going to spend the day focusing on the things I love about skiing – the mountains, the beauty of the canyon in winter, the sound of wind through pine trees, and spending time with friends. I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that skiing in and of itself is also a rush. There’s something energizing about making turns over snow and feeling it slide beneath your skis. I’m hoping that my recent activity at the gym has prepared my muscles for the rigor they’ll face today. I’ll let you know.

As we say in our family: "See you. Love you. Bye!"

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

We're All a Bunch of Chickens!

Don’t look now, but Belly Acre Farm is going fowl. As in chickens.

As a writing tool to help me with my upcoming children’s book, I’ll occasionally be converting all the members of my family into chickens. Okay, not real chickens, but I’ll refer to us as chickens in this blog. Some of my friends and neighbors will be barnyard animals as well. (Let me know if you have any personal preferences as to your breed and name. Maybe you’d make a fine bovine. Or how about an old goat?)

For starters, let me introduce our family members.

Our leading male is Rusty the rooster. (a.k.a. Safety Rooster) He’s often away from the coop working hard to help other animals stay safe and follow all the rules. He’s hard-working, dedicated, and quite serious. He does, however, have a killer racquetball serve.

Then there’s me. I’m Mother Hen. You can call me Queenie. (I love bees and have always wanted to be a queen bee. This is my big chance.) I spend most days on the farm tidying up the pig sties and preparing chicken scratch for dinner. Sometimes I get peckish, but most days I’d describe my mood as sunny side up. I dream of becoming a successful writer. Maybe even have a story printed up in Better Coops and Pig Sties. You never know.

Next is Bug. He’s a rooster in training and just started into the teen years. He eats, sleeps and breathes basketball. He even made a custom set of glasses with cardboard blinders across the bottom of the frame to block the view of his wings while he’s dribbling the ball. His uncle in med. school told him that chickens grow while they sleep. He dreams of being 6 foot 2 inches, so he tries to hit the hay early. Bug is focused and motivated, but is often discouraged and bossy. He’s a work in progress, but we’re sure he’ll achieve greatness.

Loula Belle is a young chick of 10 years old. We call her Lou for short. Yesterday I went with her to a maturation clinic for fifth grade girls. Can she really be growing up and trading in her downy yellow fluff for training feathers? I guess that would explain her recent mood swings. But I’m not too worried. She’s an easy-going social butterfly. School and sports come easy for her. I like watching her strut her stuff.

Last of all we have Beans. Dear little Beans. She’s all of eight years old and as sweet as strawberry pie. You’ll never meet a kinder, more giving chick than Beans. She enjoys drawing and writing, and loves playing with our farm cat, Oreo. But watch out! Just when you least expect it, Beans can really let ‘er rip. P-U! (Her cute little giggle usually precedes the smell. Almost makes the toot worth it.)

That’s us. Be sure to tune in regularly to see what we’re up to. You can never tell when things will get interesting.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Suffering From Brain Cramps . . .

Life moves at break-neck speed, and some days it’s hard to keep up. Whether multi-tasking in the kitchen, playing chauffeur for half a dozen after-school activities or simply trying to get a little work done around the house, brain cramps can strike at any time.

What is a brain cramp? How can you tell if you’re suffering from them? Simple. You do dumb things without even trying. Here are some recent examples from my own life:

Running a batch of laundry with detergent, fabric softener, the works – but no clothes.

Forgetting oldest daughter’s 7 A.M. piano lesson. Remembering at 4 P.M. that afternoon.

Every calendar in the house lists the semi-monthly district PTA meeting, but not looking at any calendars until after lunch. Missing the meeting.

Calling to talk with a friend and then forgetting who you called by the time someone answers. Having to say, "This is Christie. Who have I called?"

Baking chocolate chip cookies and forgetting to set the oven timer. Hoping your husband and kids like extra crispy cookies. (Note: This is a good thing when you’re trying not to eat too many yourself.)

Walking into the storage room but forgetting why it was you wanted to be there in the first place.

Going grocery shopping with a list. Forgetting an item on the list. Getting home before realizing it. Having to go back because you need it tonight. (Note: I’ve been to Wal-Mart three times in one day. Anyone top that?)

For Valentines: The Gift of Time

A few years ago around this time of the month, I learned a little about serendipity. Serendipity, by definition, is the act of discovering something wonderful quite by accident. Some might call it luck.

Valentine’s was approaching and I was in a quandary over what to get my kids. With the post-holiday trip to the dentist fresh in my memory, sweets were definitely out. And financial realities ruled out almost everything else. Fortunately, I remembered having some leftover red card stock. What could be better than handmade Valentines?

Using a pattern, I traced a large red heart on each sheet of 8 ½ x 11 inch paper. Not wanting to waste the scraps remaining, I made a small pattern and cut out two additional hearts per sheet of paper. But what to do with them?

Not until just before handing them to the kids did I come up with an idea. Magic hearts -- that’s what I’d call them.

Presenting them to my children, I explained, "These smaller hearts are magic. Sure, they may look like ordinary paper, but they’re not. Each one has special powers that affect only me. Say, for instance, that you want me to play a game, but I’m doing the dishes. All you have to do is give me the magic heart and say, ‘Mom, I’d like you to play a game with me.’And just like magic, I have to do it."

My daughter’s jaw dropped and my son’s eyes got big. Something that could get Mom to drop everything and play with us? Yes, the hearts really must be magic.

We discussed that since they each got only two hearts, it would be important not to waste them. Using one to get Mom to do something they could do themselves – that would be wasteful. But turning one in to get Mom to read their favorite book instead of putting on her make-up – very wise indeed.

At the last minute I added another clause. "Once you use a magic heart," I told them, "if I find you doing something extra nice – like picking up your toys without being asked – I can give you your magic heart back to use again." They giggled with excitement.

A week or so later, my son wanted me to play Legos with him. I gave him my typical response, "Not right now, I’m cleaning up the breakfast mess." But instead of protesting, he said nothing. Just walked away.

Within a minute he returned, holding a magic heart. "Mom," he said, "I’m using a magic heart. Now you have to play Legos with me." Although I still didn’t want to, I couldn’t say no. And after helping him build a space ship, I began to wonder if maybe playing Legos might be more important than wiping counters and loading the dishwasher after all.

I impulsively gave my children magic hearts for Valentine’s Day, never guessing at the outcome. Not only did the hearts’ magic give my kids a sense of power and control, but they also showed a task-oriented mother that work could wait. Time, on the other hand, is precious and fleeting.

Chocolates, cards and candy hearts are nice, but magic hearts taught me that nothing says, "I love you" like the gift of time.