Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A love letter to peanut butter

Image by Shawn Carpenter.
A friend of mine has a daughter with a peanut allergy. Her daughter once asked what peanut butter tasted like. My friend told her daughter that she wasn't missing much. (That's what parents sometimes do: Lie to protect our kids.) 

The reality is that peanut butter is perfect.

When I was pregnant (and more emotional than usual) I would cry at a Jif commercial in which a boy makes his mom lunch. (Don't judge me.) I remember the first pb&j I made for my son - he looked at it like it was magic. After devouring the sandwich, he asked me for another one.

Somewhere in my journey to adulthood, I started thinking of peanut butter as a kid's food. Yes, you can eat a pb&j as a single adult, but when you have one with your child you feel a bit more justified about it. It's like a parenting perk.

Now I think that people would be happier if they indulged in peanut butter more often.
There's a deli that I love which serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Occasionally, I will be in line behind a businessman who sees them on the menu and immediately gets happy. The deli is awesome enough to give the choice of crunchy or smooth peanut butter and a few different jelly types. I imagine that the person who orders a pb&j and then goes to a meeting is better at coping with the rest of their day.

Because of nut allergies, all forms of peanuts are banned from my son's school, so I try to make him a pb&j at least once a weekend. The last time I made him one, he told me I was the best mommy ever. Peanut butter does that. It brings people together. 

Fears that we carry with us

Everyone has at least one childhood accident story.

I never broke a bone or had a major illness, but when I was 9 I had a horrible bicycle accident at Girl Scout camp. I remember the start of my flip over the handlebars, darkness and waking up to my counselors speaking in calm voices. I watched a fuzzy caterpillar crawl over my hand while my wounds were cleaned with alcohol and we waited for the ambulance to arrive.

One of my counselors went to the hospital with me and created a communication problem for me. All our counselors went by nicknames and at the end of camp the kids had to try and guess their real names. I knew her only as "Wilbur" but she obviously gave the hospital her real name (Michelle). The nurses thought I had hit my head too hard.

Since then, I haven't been a bicycle enthusiast. I did get a new bike and went for rides again, but never with the same gusto and always with an undercurrent of fear. I gave up riding.

But now my son is old enough to ride, and my husband wants us to ride as a family. So we all have bikes and helmets (where were those when we were little?). And now I ride. Keeping up with a toddler isn't difficult, but I practice when my husband and son aren't around so that I will be ready. Ready to take the hills that he will want to take, to go the speeds he'll want to experience and keep the fear of falling at bay.

Because the fear is still there. It is there when I go too fast or wobble over a rocky patch of the street. I am not sure it will ever completely go away, but I never want my son to pick up on it.

And that makes me wonder what fears my parents ignored so I wouldn't pick up on them. Heights? Clutter? Snakes? And if I asked them, would they tell me? 

Friday, July 19, 2013

I hate running. An adult's guide to exercise.

It's 5:15 am. I have my running shoes on, knuckle lights strapped on my hands and my iPod is tucked into my armband. I step outside my house take a deep breath and inhale...skunk.
I hate running.

But, I do it. At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would start running and get up to 30 minutes at a time. To do that, I bought a book.

My husband didn't understand why I needed a book to help me learn how to run. "It's just running, right?" he asked. I didn't try to explain it to him. I just followed the program outlined in the book, and now I try to run at least three times a week.

And I still hate it.

There is no runner's high for me, no desire to complete a race and my only goal is to get through the running so I can go home and take a shower. But I do it because I need exercise and it works with my schedule.

When I was little my mom enrolled me in dance classes. I didn't realize that was exercise, because in my head it was just "dance class." So when I quit dance class I didn't know to replace that activity with a different type of exercise. Maybe I'm not that bright, but I never made the connection.

So I'm building the connection early for my son. I tell him that all of the activities that he does are forms of exercise. We talk about energy output and growing big and tall and strong. I tell him about my running. But he's little, so I am not sure that he gets it.

Until he gets his first bike with training wheels. He shoots off on his bike and I start running beside him to keep up. I keep pace with him and we do a full mile together. I am insanely proud of him (and of myself for keeping up). The next time he goes out on his bike he asks for me to run next to him because he knows mommy can keep up.

Do I still hate running? Yes. But I do it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

We all know that reading is fun. So, why don't we do it?

Check out Stories for Grown-ups.
We read. 

When I was little my mom took me to the library. Actually, several of them. One was a small building that was a short walk through the park across from our house. The other one that I remember was a much larger building the next town over, and I think the entire basement of the building was the children's section. (I could be making that second one up.)

By the time I was four, I knew all about Caldecott and Newbery medals and that Andrew Carnegie was a good man who must have liked books. When my mom took over the library at my elementary school, I spent my mornings with her re-shelving books and laying on the floor with the latest books that came in before it was time for me to leave for half-day kindergarten. 

I spent my afternoons in middle school at the library and even semi-followed in mom's footsteps, becoming a library assistant during my free period in high school. And then, I forgot about libraries for a while, unless I had a report to do or needed a quiet place to study. 

Then I had a baby. And that made me remember that libraries are special.

So now, I visit a library about once a week. I order my books online and bring them home so my son and I can read together. He lights up with joy whenever I bring home new books to read at bedtime, and I freshen my supply for my 100 of Something project (see previous post).

I did listen to you, mom, when you told me that reading was important. I just forgot for a little while. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We all need a hobby. Do 100 of something

My son is old enough now that I can think about myself again.

People without children will see that statement and either not understand it, or they will try to tell me about an article they once read which explains how you are supposed to carve out time for yourself even when you have a baby. 

Let's move on.

So, I gave myself two goals this year. The first was to start running consistently and get up to 30 minutes of run time. (More on that later.) The other was to read 100 books this year.
The book idea stems from a Slate article by Jeff Ryan about his resolution to complete 365 books in a year. That seemed a bit much for me, so I scaled it back to 100. My rules were a bit different than his:
  1. No audiobooks.
  2. Try to read one serious book for every fluff book.
So far, I am on schedule to finish my 100 before the end of the year. Because I am crazy/organized, I select my books based on authors. This has led me to learn that there are some authors that should be read at once and others that have redundancy problems.
For example, Maeve Binchy is a prolific Irish writer whose books explore the same village. When reading her works, you start to recognize background characters as the protagonists from other books. It gives you the feeling that you know everyone else's business, just like what you think a real Irish village would be like in the 1960s.

But Nikki French, an amazing husband-and-wife writing team, has a repetition problem in which most of the female characters complain about being in desperate need of a bath.
But the point is, I read. It is solitary and wonderful and had a surprising benefit. My son sees me reading and he wants to read more, too. That is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Exactly who do you think you are? or The search for identity

When I was in fourth grade we had a career dress-up day. Amy wore her swimsuit because she wanted to be an Olympic swimmer; Mary dressed up as a chef; Bonnie was dressed as a construction worker. (It was a good look for Bonnie as she already had a mullet.) I couldn't figure it out, so I dressed as a teacher, because as far as I could tell, they wore regular clothes.

In college, my friend Melissa told me that her dream was to be surrounded by books. We took a writing class together, and that is all she talked about - being surrounded by books. What did she want? To be a librarian? Or to just sit in a room and read all day? (That last one sounded more likely.)

But I still never figured it out. And that must be why my resume is considered "diverse" and I can honestly tell people that I've worn a lot of different hats in my career. Or careers. (The lines blur.)

That also must be the reason why every Christmas, I get a "you're lost" gift from my mother. She doesn't call them that. She had all sorts of ideas about the person I could become. But I stopped listening and she resorted to speaking to me through books. Name a find yourself/follow your dreams/create a passion book and it is probably on my shelf. It is one thing to be lost; it is another thing to have people point it out to you and have it gift-wrapped.

I wonder about those people who have been in one job for 20 or 30 years (they still exist) and how boring their resumes look. I envy their Christmas gifts.

Sitting in a room reading books all day sounds lovely, but maybe it depends on the books you are reading. As for me, I think I need to crack open some of those books my mom gave me.

But there is one thing I do know about myself: I'm a mom. And that is a great place to start. So, let me take a look at the things I learned right the first time and the things I need to learn again because I didn't listen the first time.