The kids are OK, but what about me?

She walked across the middle school campus in tight jeans, never glancing back at the car, her long golden locks winking at me as if they had a secret. I can't believe she's in 7th grade. I-can't-believe-it. I thought I was ready in the lingering weeks of summer, her hormones pushing every limit with me and her little sis, Ana. Her emotions ebbing between cheerfulness and brooding irritation. "This is good," I thought, "She's growing up, she's ready for a change." We shopped for new school clothes and cleaned out her closet. I even helped her shave!
   With pit and leg hair removed, I figured we were ready for junior high. And then she went. And she walked in her tight jeans with her long flowing hair across that campus where she knew not a soul and disappeared into the crowd. I think my heart stretched completely out of my chest and as far across that campus as it could before it snapped back inside of me, shredded and tired. She's only 11. She's just a little girl. She still rides in the back seat of my car! Some of those girls had full faces of makeup and the curves to go with it. They looked dewy and composed, a stark contrast to the bedraggled, crepey skinned mother in the driver's seat. It looked as though with every year closer to womanhood the child got, the closer to death the mother became...eventually ending with one perfectly complete and womanly 16 year old and then the mother a little, shriveled waste.
    I dropped Ana off at her elementary school for 4th grade. She was all set. I'd done my utmost finagling to ensure the perfect year of fourth grade for her. She had the dynamic teacher and the perfect chemistry of classmates to boot. She was going to have a superstar year. And she didn't look back as she bounced across campus to her friends.
    Minutes after pulling away from the elementary school I began to orchestrate my day around the middle school campus, which isn't easy to do since it's in the neighboring town from our house. Should I walk the dog on the trails to the north or the south of campus? Or should I just sit in the parking lot, stalker style, during lunch? Eventually, I found myself winding my way up a trail to the nearest hilltop with the dog, craning my neck from the lookout at her new campus in hopes that I could catch a glimpse. Is she ok? Did she find someone to eat lunch with? Is she feeling uncool? Is someone jealous of her tight jeans and is now whispering behind her back? UGH. I can't see ANYTHING from here!
    The minutes of the day dragged on and my heart followed in tortured silence. Finally it was time to start the pickup process. At the elementary school I was greeted with the happiest version of Ana. She chatted on about the Zoomba breaks her teacher took and the fact that she played the guitar and they learned a song! "This teacher is right up your alley," I said as I secretly congratulated my strategic antics for orchestrating the whole thing. We pulled into the middle school parking lot 20 minutes early and parked. I felt anxious and scared and reminded myself that hugs are always best for bad days. "I will listen and support. I will encourage. I will cheer her up," I repeated to myself like a mantra of help in the calm before what I feared to be a storm of loneliness. I mean, ALL of her friends went to the other junior high. And they were all really good kids who she'd been friends with since kindergarten. This was a disaster, how could I send her to this school all by herself? I chewed on my nail and thought about how I might be able to transfer her to the other campus by next week. Sparkling golden locks caught my eye as she floated along the crosswalk. Here she comes...."Hi Mommy!" she chirped and piled into the back seat of the car. That's right, the back seat. I spun around in my seat, the engine off, "Sooo? How was it?" I managed, trying to sound positive. Her face broke into a glowing smile, I mean, she was beaming with joy?!??
   "It was really good!" she smiled.
   "Really?" I smiled back in confusion, "Tell me all the details and start from the beginning!"
 So, the kids are ok. They are ok. But what about me? So why does my heart feels like it's been shredded into criss-cut fries?


Annals of Paranoia

I'm paranoid. The paranoia shifts depending on the day or month. Last year I read an article about a zero waste family and suddenly became obsessed with creating unnecessary landfill waste....so I stopped buying Ziplock baggies, switched to wax coated sandwich bags and bought a ton of tupperware to send my kids' lunches in. Recently, I read the following article on BPA-Free plastics: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe and became paranoid of plastics-how it was breaking down into our foods, our milk, our bodies. Much to John's dismay, this led me to throw out every plastic cup and tupperware (I recycled it, of course!)we owned. I bought Klean Kanteen's Stainless Steel cups for the kids to drink out of and $50 worth of stainless steel food compartments from steeltainer.com and lunchbots.com.

This week it's processed foods....so this morning the girls and I made these yummy No Bake protein granola bars. SO GOOD!
Home-Made No Bake Peanut Butter Protein Bars Recipe from the lean green bean website: No Bake Protein Bars An homemade, no-bake version of your favorite store-bought peanut butter protein bar, without all the crazy ingredients. Ingredients 1 cup oat flour (i just ground up oats in my food processor until I have enough to fill 1 cup) 1 cup vanilla protein powder (2 heaping scoops) 1 cup Rice chex cereal 2 Tbsp chia seeds ½ cup peanut butter ¼ cup milk 3 Tbsp honey 1-2 Tbsp water 3 Tbsp chocolate chips, optional Instructions In a large bowl, combine the flour, protein powder, cereal and chia seeds. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, milk and honey. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and microwave 15-30 sec more. Add liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add 1-2 Tbsp water if necessary to make sure all dry ingredients are moistened. (Mixture will be crumbly). Use parchment paper to press the mixture into an 8x8 pan (I use a 9x9 and just leave about an inch empty on one side). Freeze for 20 minute. Cut into bars (I cut mine into 8 bars). Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Melt chocolate and spread or drizzle over the bars. Notes You could use unflavored protein powder but you'd probably need to increase the amount of honey for sweetness and you might need to decrease the milk. You could use other cereals like Rice Krispies instead of the Chex. Use your favorite nut butter if you don't like peanut butter. We pulsed a cup of dark chocolate chips to make them really chocolatey and added them to the dry mix. We also added a tablespoon of flaxseed meal and used NAVITAS Naturals' Superfod Smoothie Protein Mix with Hemp-Cacao-Maca. Key words: NO-BAKE


Cheap Tricks

As promised, just a few days late, my top ten tricks for saving that kizzo for a rainy day (or a Nordstrom's Sale...). Love the One You're With: Check out your current accounts that may be hemoraging under your watch. #1) Examine that monthly trash bill. Do you really need the big trash can? In my town, the green waste and recycle bins are free-no matter how big. So the price is based on the size of your trash bin. We have the tiniest bin for a family of four and it dropped our cost to less than $10/month! RECYCLE MORE. #2) KILL YOUR CABLE I mean really, unplug yourself from mainstream America and think outside the box (the cable box, that is). With Netflix and Amazon Prime (free online streaming of zillions of tv shows and movies AND free 2 day shipping) all you really need is a Blu-Ray player for a little tv fix. The other benefit is that all that time wasted in front of the tv can be spent elsewhere-like on the lawn playing ball with your kiddos. #3) Cancel junk mail and catalogs, because every time I flip through those pages, I covet more stuff I need to spend money on. Sure, it's a little disheartening to stare into the gaping darkness of an empty mailbox, but think of all those trees you're saving! Go to https://www.catalogchoice.org/ and https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action to stop junk mail. #4) Make 30 of these burritos (Thanks Holly!) and freeze them for peace of mind, nutrition and a quick hearty meal whenever you need one. Kid friendly, too! INGRDIENTS: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Sauteed Veggie (like onion, zuchini, or red bell pepper), Black Beans, Shredded Cheese (lots), Giant Burrito Sized Tortillas. Directions: Set up an assembly line of the Ingredients, make a pile in the center of the tortilla and wrap into a burrito. Then seer each burrito in a little olive oil and butter on a hot pan, melting the cheese and crisping the tortilla. Then, wrap the tortilla in a sheet of tin foil. Pop into a freezer bag and stash in the freezer for future sanity. You'll thank me (and Holly) later. Feel free to substitute items like chicken or hot sauce or whatever else works for you. #4) Avoid Target and TJ Maxx. Just don't go in. Don't do it! #5) Buy 4 at a time. If you can store it, just get 3 or 4 of the following household staples-it will save you in driving trips to the store, fuel, time, and scattered craziness. Dish detergent, Toilet Paper, laundry detergents, Soaps, Tampons, Sunscreen, etc. You get the idea. Give yourself the green light on buying the hell out of this stuff. And you'll be sufficiently prepared for Armageddon. #6) If your car still runs, drive it. No new car will save you money-it just makes you look cooler (yeah, that IS jealousy in my voice). If you have to look at new cars, calculate the payment you will make plus the insurance....$500? $700? a month??? And start putting that amount in your savings account every month you drive your beater. #7) Reorganize your closet. Clean out the old shit you hate, iron the stuff that's wrinkly, color coordinate it, fold it, stack it and make it pretty. That old wardrobe will look so much more appealing when you sell it to yourself like a department store display.

#8) Avoid coffee shops-those $4 coffees will make you go broke. Instead, get yourself a cute mug that matches your purse and rock that homemade brew everywhere you go. Like froth and steamed milk but don't have the doohicky to make it? We bought a $19 frother we use for microwaved milk and ADORE every hoome cup of coffee! YUMMMY! #9) Buy used....craigslist, ebay, garage sales, and thrift shops. If you want it, it's out there. #10) Just say no. To your kids, to yourself. If all else fails, just buy it, hide it in the back of your closet and practice saying, "What THIS OLD THING?!? I've had this for Aaaggges!"


Six Degrees or less

A local surfer in our little town passed away yesterday. He was the father of 4 and had suffered the loss of their mother in a tragic car accident years ago. I wouldn't call myself a friend, just an acquaintance if that. But just the same, I feel heavy with this news because it's just....sad. Any parent with young kids has to find something about this that resonates with them. It got me thinking about the school where his children go and all the families who share their daily life on the campus, in the carpool, and in the classroom. All of which will share this heavy burden of grief with his kids' today and in their future. I never realized just how interwoven we become as parents at a school just by doing the daily carpool and volunteering in the classrooms. I've realized that I know a lot about the kids my children go to school with, and I've learned a lot about the story of their families over the years. I learned about Mailie's new baby sister who's been in the NICU for 5 weeks waiting to grow big enough to come home. I celebrated the final chemo treatment of a kindergarten classmate (why do these things have to happen to kids???). I've had the pleasure of meeting grandparents and big brothers, stepmoms and neighbors who run carpool. These are all people who are shaping the environment my daughters learn and live in every day by the way they choose to parent and interact with their own kids. It's amazing how small the world gets when you begin to think this way. When you put your child in a social situation where they interact, play and learn together with other people's kids....wait, it's almost like-REAL LIFE! It's like the way we choose to treat eachother actually matters.... Hm, I'm going to chew on that one for a little while. Back to my point about DRay.. I hope, as members of a community, and humans, that we can comfort his kids with open arms, plates of food, and plenty of help, happiness and encouragement along their path of life. R.I.P Dustin Ray


Frugal? What, Me?!

I've been hanging out in random parking lots with makeshift beds in my car, half a week's worth of groceries and luggage strewn from the front seat to the trunk. No, I am not homeless. I'm just a mom who's kids suddenly lead active afterschool lives. And I'm trying to plan ahead, eliminate extra trips around town, and not spend the last of our savings on gas station snacks and overpriced water bottles. I know, I know, I've said it a million times, "Why don't they have drive-through everythings?" And I still believe in that motto....I just don't want to pay for it these days. Instead, I'm packing up piles of tupperware with leftovers and lugging coolers of snacks from place to place. Anyone hungry for a slab of enchilada? Call it an epiphany, call it confession, but I have some serious issues with overusing those handy little plastic rectangles I have bulging in my wallet! John came home the other day and asked me to set a savings goal. "Are you planning on quitting your job?!" I mused. He snickered. I took the bait, just the same, and did a little research. The idea of a well padded savings account gave me a sudden sense of calm, like a good massage, no rainy day could rock my world if I had already saved for it, right? And just like that, I was off on a new mission to "Save and Protect" my sanity and that of my family's. I discovered that my bank offers a Personal Finance Manager on their website and boy does it expose some unholy truths about my spending habits. Don't tell John, but I couldn't believe how often I swiped, charged and debited our account for little things like a trip to the icecream store for an afterschool snack (every day for a whole week in a row!?), an extra spin around Rite Aid for all sorts of fun creams and soaps and new French Manicure polish (totalling $94.67). Not only was I going to make my kiddos fatter than Santa with all that icecream, but our bank account was looking pretty anorexic. So, that's how I found myself in a parking lot living like a homeless person with my kids in our car. No more quick trips to Target to skim the Clearance Aisles, or Costco hotdogs, no more daily Jamba Juice. Nope, we are exercising our right to public property and "spend-safe" parking lots where Mommy can't use her credit cards. The girls think our new "camp" is fantastic. When do we ever get to hang out with the trunk open, curl up together with blankets and pillows and read books, eat snacks and watch movies? Yeah, we look homeless and to be honest, we kind of are during our school days in another town a little too far from home. But, I'm padding the bank account this way, I'm earning my worth as a spend thrift mommy who's actually spending more face time with her kids and less time pushing them in a shopping cart. Tune in next week for my top 10 NEW tips on saving money! And feel free to chime in with any thrift worthy tricks you have, too.