Life Lessons


Anson is trouble.  Trouble with a capital “T”.  He is adorable with big blue/gray eyes and the cutest chuckle known to man, but boy can he get into trouble and that is why we often call him the “t” word. 

Anson has always been my loud and fearless one.  I admire that about him.  He will dive into anything that catches his eye with such focus that you can hardly tear him away for it.  His preschool teacher would always marvel at his focus on a task (except for circle time where he just couldn’t be contained).  Sometimes, I have had to literally tap him on the nose between the eyes to get his attention when he is concentrating on his next stunt.

Despite all of his trouble, he is the most outwardly loving boy ever.  I have to admit I take some personal pride in having raised 2 boys who express affection in a second hand manner.  Meaning, they don’t think twice about giving a hug or kiss.  Perhaps, they will out grow of this tender trait or maybe they will transfer their expressions of affection to the form of hearty, manly “love taps”.  You know, the manly hugs where 2 men stand about 2 feet apart, simulate a hug formation, and simply slap their hand on each others shoulders a few times.  Not too close, not too soft, just a slightly impersonal manly hug.

Even though this transference of affection may be inevitable in men/boys, I hope that Anson maintains his focus on affection.  He approaches his hugs just like he approaches each new exciting bout of trouble.  That is just one reason why I love him.  When I am having a bad day and “Trouble” wraps his pudgy little arms around me in a squeeze equivalent to a boa constrictor, all my worries melt away.  He lives in the moment, focusing on the love that he wants you to feel.  Straight from his precious little heart to mine.

Yesterday, my little buddy came up to me after I finished vacuuming up one of his messes (smashed gold fish crackers everywhere) and grabbed me around my neck in one of his classic hugs.  I literally fell over from the force of it.  He kissed me on my cheek and said, “Mommy, are you done?” 

I responded, “Yes, I am done vacuuming up your huge mess.”

Trouble pats me on the face with one hand while the other stroked my hair, “I am so proud of you mommy!”  Another ferocious hug follows.

You just can’t imagine these moments until they happen and then you wish you could bottle them up for later times when hugs aren’t cool anymore.  I sincerely hope that he continues to hold onto life with such fierce passion and also to always have a reason to be proud of his mommy.  Even if others only see the trouble in him, I will always see the passionate love he has for all.

That is why I love “Trouble”.  Well, that and because he always notices and compliments when I have popsicle toes.  (For those of you who don’t understand Anson’s toddler speak:  Popsicle toes = Polished toes.)  He’s the only male I know who consistently does that, and that’s saying something!


Go to fullsize imageAlanis had nothing on me a couple days ago!  I was driving home from work at “rush hour” (rush hour in Grand Rapids, MI is but an extra minute to get home) yesterday when I got the call.  The call from the hubby asking the ever looming question “What’s for dinner?”.  First of all, I hate that question.  I hear it everyday from someone and I just get so tired of having to be the one to figure out the answer.  Second of all, when I get a call like that on the way home, I know that my fam doesn’t really want anything homemade.  So, why don’t they just say it…”Can we get McDonalds?!”

Well, that was the question and due to a frenzied schedule, I caved.  I pulled into McDonalds, which just happens to be 2 blocks away from my house and ordered up a bunch of Happy Meals and Extra Value Meals.  As I am sitting in line waiting for the underpaid workers to hand over the 3 bags of unnutrious food and vats of soda, I find myself nodding and completely agreeing with the book on tape (cd actually) that I got from the library recently.  The line is long for the food and I become more involved with the content of the audio book, the information I am hearing is utterly fascinating.  Here’s where the irony comes in and I realize it as I am handed my food by a teenager who speaks English as a second language:  the book I am so into at the moment is Schlossers “Fast Food Nation”. 

Here’s part of Amazon’s summary: “On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry’s drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America’s diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways”.

If you can imagine my aha! moment as I realized I was the one in line at McDonalds and I hadn’t even given it a second thought.  Something like 70% of all fast food purchases are unplanned and spontaneous.  The best part was that I was will to pay top dollar for my fast food but not willing to go put gasoline in my car that day because the price of a gallon of gas was 5 cents more than the day before. With my fuel light blaring at me, I continued to sit in line and wait for my fast food.   Maybe if I had fixed something at my house, I wouldn’t be so cheap on the necessary fuel. 

After getting through this book as well as having read “Chew on This” by the same author, I think I am going to have to boycott fast food for a while.  It’s just an easy filler.  There’s nothing to be gained health wise from it.  Plus, after I got my supersized soda, I realized they had switched back to styrofoam cups!  That was the last straw for me…literally.  How am I supposed to recycle styrofoam??  I am challenging myself to see how long I can go without getting fast food.  My kids will be so disappointed.  They almost had all the characters from the Kung Fu Panda Happy Meals.  I guess we all have to sacrifice a little in the present to gain in the future!

Go to fullsize imageAlternately titled, “You can do it.  We can help.”

Alright, I am going to let you in on a little secret. If Tomas saw me writing this, he would grab the laptop and runaway.  He doesn’t find this story as amusing as I do.  Of course, maybe you may not either.  But it has kept me laughing all day.

Tomas woke up this morning (he slept in a little today) and staggered down into the family room where the rest of us had been up for 1.5 hours.  But who was counting.  He was groggy and sleepy eyed.  He plunks his bed-rumpled body on the couch and states, “I just had the weirdest suggestive dream.”  Of course, my interest meter was reading at 100%.  This was going to be good.  “Tell me more!”, I say trying to not appear too eager.

“Well,” Tomas goes on.  “In my dream I was here at home.  You were gone.  The doorbell rings.  When I answer the door.  There stands this good looking women with beautiful long blonde hair.  She was fully dressed (I did have to clarify that myself) and was wearing a Home Depot orange work vest.  She demanded for me to let her in.  She was quite intimidating.  After that I remember nothing.”

“That’s it??” I ask.  Tomas insisted that he didn’t remember anything else.  He just thought it was a very strange dream.  So in my infinite wisdom (I did check out a book on dreams from the library once), I decide to analyze this dream for him.  Here is the interpretation that I presented him.  He really likes women with long blonde hair.  I have shortish dark brown hair, by the way.  So this is his ultimate fantasy, to have a woman who meets his physical ideal come to his house and demand to be with him.  Not only that, he is strongly attracted to women who has the ability to finish all his half done projects around the house. 

“That’s your new fantasy!”, I shout.  “A tall blonde who demands to do all your projects/housework…  I think that makes you officially old.”  He wasn’t too happy or impressed with my interpretation and was adamant that it was not a fantasy type dream.  He just found it odd.  Either way, true or not, keep dreaming buddy.  Last time I heard, Home Depot wasn’t running any type of “handywoman special”, so get work!

A really good friend of mine, a.k.a. horsehead, would always reply in response to the question “Do you have any change I could borrow?”, “Hey man! Change comes from within.”  She also says when you give her directions to drive “straight”, “Stacey, go forward, never straight.”  You can see why I love this 36 year old wise sage.  Everytime I hear the same line of questions from others, I hear her wise wise words in my head…”change comes from within”.  It’s korny, but it works.

As I was thinking last night about how I was working on greening my home and all of the outside environment that I come into contact with, I thought about how overcoming my anxiety hurdles this past year has caused a progressive greening of my insides as well.  I think that it is wise to think about possibly changing some attitudes or thoughts that are within.  Afterall, what’s the point of living a healthy physical life if your psyche is a toxic mess.

So today, I want to encourage MEEPs to look at their innards.  That gross dirty business of sorting out the good, the bad and the ugly within.  I am am by no means a professional at this but I have heard from some pros in this area and have gotten some great advice.  Here’s the short list of the most helpful tips to green up the inside and blossom this spring into a beautiful green goddess.

1.  Identify toxic relationships.  I had certain relationships that literally made me sick.  Everytime I had to deal with a couple people for an extended amount of time, I would have a low grade anxiety attack or get sick.  First, I had to acknowledge my contribution to this negative interaction.  Could I do anything to help it?  Secondly, I had to decide to let these relationships peacefully pass after I was able to make my contribution to it “right”.  It involved a lot of forgiveness and letting go of guilt.  The hardest part, is when it’s family.  But sometimes, family members can be the most toxic because of past history.

2.  Adjust your expectations of yourself and get rid of toxic thoughts.  Sometimes, especially with mothers, you expect way too much of your body and your mind.  You can burn yourself out by doing way to much.  Whether it’s the kids school, extra activities, constantly being a stellar wife, mother and friend, we tend to push ourselves to this level of performance that no other person would ask of us.  When we don’t meet our own expectations, we fill ourselves with toxic negative thoughts.  Sometimes, we can get buried in that negativity, saying to ourselves “I am a bad mother (wife/friend).  Why can’t I keep it together all the time?  I have let people down.”  Stop filling up with toxic thoughts and say “I’m good enough.  I’m smart enough.  And dog-gone-it, people like me.”  Note SNL reference here.

3.  When you think someone else should change (i.e. your husband/partner) their line of thinking or actions, be the first to bend.  Here’s some of the best advice I ever received.  When you want someone else to make an effort at something, whether it’s getting your hubby to be more affectionate or do the dishes or a friend that just isn’t attentive to others, be the one to begin the change first.  They will almost always meet you in the middle.  Instead of expecting others to change for you to meet your needs/priorities and getting all worked up because they just aren’t doing it, make the first step yourself.  If you bend a little, they will bend a little and the change will begin to take shape.  So next time you are fuming inside your head because your husband didn’t take the initiative to cuddle or give your a kiss at a time you wanted it, step forward and give him a hug or kiss.  Or if you want someone to be more open and accepting, do something for them that shows you are open for communication and willing to give as well.

That’s just a start to ways you can green up the inside.  Take care of your body and take care of your mind.  And hey, Horsehead, this ones for you crazy girl.

Go to fullsize imageI am in a quandary.  Like many of you readers, I am a SAHM with multiple children.  We have one main income with lots of outcome (aka: expenses).  Tomas and I have consistently struggled with our grocery budget.  What’s too much?  What’s unrealistically small?  How often should we shop?  How can we eat healthy on a strict budget?  etc. etc.  You have all heard the drill, I am sure. 

In order to get a little better grasp on this, I have taken the advice of many fellow moms who are much better budgetors than I and joined a coupon website.  It’s called Savings Angel.  (I previously did The Grocery Game, but found it to be a little harder to deal with.)  These coupon matching sites are great! They match up the local store ads with the coupons that are in your paper.  The idea being that you stock up on things when they are really dirt cheap instead of paying an arm and a leg for it.  It has really helped our grocery bill to shop this way.  We have cut our bill in half.  Not hard since we really didn’t shop on any a good budget before.

Here’s the problem…I just have so much stuff.  I have been stocking up for a few months on all these items for very little money.  Some of them are even free or I have ended up getting money back for them.  I have given some stuff away, but yet when I look in my basement pantry (otherwise known as my kitchen overflow).  I am appalled.  I counted 18 cereal boxes as of today’s shopping trip.  How does that happen?  And let’s not forget the bathroom!  I don’t even know how many tubes of free toothpaste or lotions are up there.  All of it for free or at least for under a dollar.  How can you say no?

This whole process has troubled me a little bit.  When should you say when?  When is a really great deal, really not necessary?  It’s hard to say no.  It’s hard to have limits.  Come on, you might think….it was free.  You can’t pass that up.  Well, I think that I need to.  For several reasons.  One being, it’s wasteful.  Things may just get buried in my stock piles and never come out because it’s just too much to sort through when I am busy.  Do I have time to do spread sheets to keep track of my stock?  No, I am too busy entertaining a clown troupe.  Therefore, I need to simplify and stop creating these shelves of “free to a good home” items.  Before I grab that next free lotion, I need to ask “Will I use this in the next couple months?”  If not, I will slap my greedy hand away from that lucious lubricant.  How embarrassing is it that we think of ourselves as just “getting by” when we have stockpiles of goods?

My second big struggle with this is the “greening” of my home.  I have to think that every person who is stockpiling these items are seemingly increasing the demand for any product that continuously has coupons.  Jergens Body Lotion is just an example.  I have a couple bottles of this upstairs.  I am trying to do what’s best for my family and the environment, and yet I am bringing all sorts of perfumes, dyes and chemicals into their diets and personal care because I am stockpiling.  Here’s Jergens safety analysis from Skin Deep.  Some people may not be concerned with this but I am.  I am trying to keep everyone in our house healthy and “green”.  Would I have 2 bottles of this lotion in my home if it weren’t for my organized hoarding?  No, I would have waited until I really needed lotion.  I would have made one trip to a store and bought one bottle of natural lotion.  That’s it.  No multiple trips to multiple stores to get the best price on something that’s not totally healthy for us.  It’s the same for the food items too.  It’s very hard to eat healthy produce/meats when you are trying to stick to a tight budget.  There’s never coupons for fresh fruits and veggies.  Only chips, sugar laden breakfast bars, and crazy new chocolatey cereals.  You can probably begin to imagine how this second issue has so many levels to be considered.  My mind spins when I think of all that could be considered in this category.

However, with all the negatives, I still value the money saved in our budget.  We live a good life.  We have nice things.  We eat well.  We smell good and have controlled body hair (thanks to all the free razors).  But I have cancelled the my paid subscriptions to these sites.  I am forging ahead on my own.  I will still shop a sale and use coupons.  Oh, I will guarantee you that.   That’s the positive side, I have educated myself in budgeting and smart shopping.  But I will also revert back to my greenie ways and stay true to my values as a responsible consumer and parent.  It’s just all too much.

“Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will provide a sustainable future, eliminate pollution, poverty and violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster peaceful progress in the human adventure.”

John McConnell, founder of International Earth Day

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

Gaylord Nelson    former governor of Wisconsin, co-founder of Earth Day

Go to fullsize imageEverybody has their food vice.  Their weakness.  The one thing that you just can’t say no to.  For me, Easter is the worst possible time to try and control food cravings.  If any of you know me, you know that I have a full fledged sugar addiction.  Baked goods of any kind call my name (I think my body is part donut from the quantity I have eaten in life).  Anything that resembles chocolate taunts me into submission.  “Caw, Caw! Stacey, Lookie here! Lookie here!”  I can not say no!  What’s a girl to do?

I went shopping this evening for groceries.  Good healthy groceries.  I got bananas, strawberries, whole grains, you know the good  healthy stuff.  Then I passed all that Easter candy.  Can I just say 3 words…Cadbury Cream Eggs….Hmmm…Yumm….  I really really wanted those.  A couple years ago, I broke my record and counted eating 19 of those babies in the Easter season.  But, I was strong.  I opted for four one bag of Hershey’s Kisses instead.  (More bang for your buck).  So with my cart full of mostly necessary groceries, I went to check out. 

There was one woman in front of me.  She just reeked of health.  She had all sorts of reusable grocery bags.  A small cart filled with organice veggies, fruits, and yogurts.  It was obvious that everything she chose, was chosen with her and the earth’s health in mind.  I was envious of her commitment, her will power.  I looked at my cookies and candies and felt guilty.  My taste buds had led me astray again!  Then…I caught a glimpse of something in the very bottom of her shopping basket.  Can you guess what it was?  The most unhealthy, yuckiest Easter candy that’s ever been made…   It was not 1 but 2 boxes of Peeps!! 

I couldn’t believe it!!  Even a picture of health has to have a sweet food vice.  2 whole boxes of unadulterated high fructose corn syrup!  I wondered if their was anything in Peeps that made them healthy.  I don’t think so.  Unless you consider them chicken and opened the box for a while when you got home.  Then maybe you could say that they were cage free chicken that weren’t ever given antibiotics or hormones.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  I think that’s why I always buy/eat all the Cadbury Creme Eggs too.  Cage Free.  Hormone Free.  Antibiotic Free.  Eureka!  Those things don’t just taste good, they are good for you.

Of course if you remember this scientific study, you might think twice about the peeps.  Just stick with the Creme Eggs. 

Go to fullsize image  You would think that with my recent postings on how to prevent toxic exposure from chemicals in your home, that I would know better.  But I didn’t!  I swear that I was totally ignorant about this!  I didn’t realize what I had done until I saw the toxic gas cloud rising from the chemical soup I inadvertantly created.  I am talking about mixing chlorine bleach and ammonia.  Yes, I did it and no, I didn’t mean to.

I was trying to hurry and get a bunch of household work finished while I had 2 kids napping at the same time.  Yes, I did say 2 kids.  It’s amazing, I know.  I was doing laundry and noticed a certain stench coming from the cat litter box.  You might be able to see where I am going with this already.  If not, hang in there for the fun.  Since I had a few extra minutes, I decided to go ahead and clean out the litter box. 

I went over to the box, looked in and thought “Holy cow!  I don’t think we remembered to scoop this thing out last week.” (Or was it the week before?  Gross, I know but try to forget about that fact).  So, of course, I look for the closest thing to clean it out with.  I spot a bottle of Clorox Bleach Cleanser that is in a spray bottle.  Perfect, I will just totally empty out the cat litter box and then spray it down with the bleach.  I want to use up the last of this bleach and be done with it.  I emptied the cat litter into a trash bag.  It is loaded with cat excrement.  It is totally disgusting.  Now I am wondering exactly when the last time anyone really cleaned this thing.  It really needs to be hosed down and scrubbed.  Our poor cat!  She has been living in filth!

Well, this is where the fatal error occurs.  I spray that bleach into the cat litter box as if it is going out of style.  The litter pan is soaking in it.  Suddenly, my eyes start to sting.  Kind of like when you chop an onion.  Then my throat starts to scratch.  Then my eyes are watering.  Then they are stinging so badly that I can’t see out of them.  Then I am coughing.  I scream out some choice words as I grab the litter pan and bolt up the stairs as fast as a blinded wheezing person can.  I make it outside into the fresh air.  My eyes started to clear up a little bit and I grab the hose to spray down the pan with water.  I finally look at my lovely litter pan.  It is literally smoking with hazardous chemical vapors.  I realized that I could have just made me and my children very, very ill.  Possibly fatally ill depending on how much material was available for the chemical reaction to continue.

What happened is this:  I never thought about the fact that cat urine is loaded with ammonia.  Thus, the it’s characteristic smell.  I never thought about the fact that I was pouring bleach onto ammonia.  For those of you who are not aware, you NEVER want to mix bleach and ammonia.  The reaction between these two chemicals creates a noxious chlorine gas.  Chlorine gas causes irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract in small doses.  In large doses, it can kill.  It was used as chemical warfare (mustard gas) in previous world wars.  Sounds great right?? Can you imagine what could have happened if it had overtaken me quickly?  This all occurred in a matter of minutes, let’s not think about if I had been in a confined area.

My friends, to all of you who love your bleach and bleach products, GET RID OF THEM!  Get them out of your house, so you don’t have an accident such as this.  It was not fun and it could have been much worse.  I literally couldn’t see!!  What if my kids had been in the room?  My little baby with her delicate body?  Thank goodness we are all safe and healthy.  But learn from my stupidity.  Never, EVER, combine anything that contains bleach and ammonia.  I will definitely use some safe nontoxic mild soap next time around.  I just might excuse myself from cleaning the litter pan from now on.  I am obviously not qualified to complete such an important task.  I guess Tomas will just have to do it from now on.  Oh darn!

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