Monday, November 26, 2012

I Am An Enabler

I am an enabler.  I have never thought of myself as an enabler.  I never set out in life to be an enabler. But, I have realized this past week that I. AM. AN. ENABLER!  Now, I have never been one of those moms that just goes on and on and on about how awesome it is to be up every 3 hours with that precious little newborn.  I never really enjoyed rearranging my life around nap schedules, feeding times, bed times, etc.  The big milestones for me have revolved around things that have helped my kids to become more independent--finally getting them potty trained, the age where they could get up and get dressed on their own, being able to just tell them to go take a shower, brush their teeth, make their beds, bring their laundry down, and, most recently, riding the bus home from school. 

Our family is now in week 3 of our "new way of life"--the life that is teaching the value of hard work.  All the details of how we ended up here can be found in a previous post, so I won't bore you with a recap.  The first few weeks have been fantastic!  I have had lots of energetic help around the house: cleaning, doing laundry, washing the dishes, etc.  I had a blast last week showing my daughter the basic ins and outs of preparing a full Thanksgiving dinner, and my kids have been excitedly spending all their newly-earned cash (albeit only in their heads, since the month is not yet up and their earnings are still precariously trapped inside beautifully decorated quart-sized Mason jars).  Things could not be better.  Beds are made, clothes are picked up, there are no shoes in my kitchen, and I can actually walk into my laundry room without tripping over backpacks. . . not to mention the fact that there aren't concreted toothpaste tracks in the sink anymore. 

That being said, I have begun to prepare for "month two".  Month two revolves around everyone pitching in with kitchen duties.  Primarily, meal preparation.  Now, to some of you, that may sound like a full-on musical symphony of awesomeness.  To me, it strikes terror into my heart!  I am a bit of a kitchen Nazi--okay, maybe I understated that slightly.  Let me re-phrase.  I am a HUGE kitchen Nazi!  I love my kitchen.  I love cooking in my kitchen.  I love creating amazing new things in my kitchen.  However, what I love most is the look on my son's face when he walks in the door to discover that I have made enchiladas for supper.  I relish in the joyful singing and dancing from my daughter when I make homemade mac n cheese.  I love having a fresh batch of cookies waiting for them when they get home from school every Monday (today's treat? A newly created mochaccino chip).  I love that my job and my schedule allows me to be home several afternoons a week so that I can make all of these special things for my most cherished loved ones.  So, I am finding "month two" to be more difficult than I had imagined.

My husband and I sat the kids down about a week ago for a family meeting--during dinner, of course.  We laid out the plan for December, which included each member of our family being completely responsible for creating a full dinner every week--from meal planning, to shopping, preparing, serving and even cleaning up (I'm pretty sure Dave is not overly impressed with all of these new ideas, but he's a team player and a real sport, so he has even told the kids that he will be taking a night also).  My kids were ecstatic!  They immediately began listing off all the amazing meals they were going to create--enchiladas, tacos, burritos, lasagna, mac n cheese, oven fried drumsticks, spaghetti, and the lists went on and on.  I had no idea they would be so excited.  I was fully prepared for the moans and groans and wails of despair.  I was taken completely by surprise that they would actually think this was a GOOD idea!  So, now the idea is out there.  I can't retract it.  My kids are giddy over the possibilities, and I AM TERRIFIED! 

I have realized this week that my kids are growing up.  While I very much like the freedom that comes with not having to wipe little butts anymore, not to mention how relaxing it is to not have to give 2 baths every night (especially when I'm tired), I really do like the part of being a mom that allows me to cook for my family.  There is a part of me that is really sad about this next teaching moment.  Sure, I want my kids to grow up to be well-rounded adults--that includes knowing how to cook a meal at home.  However, I have to admit, my control-freak tendencies are starting to raise their ugly heads.  I'm not sure I want to relinquish this part of motherhood yet.  I actually enjoy this part of my job.  In fact, I don't even consider it a job. . . I consider it an act of love. 

So, starting in December, I am going to get up, put my big girl pants on, and forge forward into this next stage of training for my kids.  I will be (begrudgingly) walking through my own 12-step program to eliminate the enabling, but I have resolved to push forward.  I look forward to the day when I will be able to cook alongside my kids in the future. . . perhaps even becoming a sous chef to their role as executive chef.  Here's hoping there is not too much bloodshed. . . mac n cheese. . . or pizza. . . .

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Love Thanksgiving!

I come from a long lineage of great cooks.  My paternal grandpa taught me how to make popcorn on the stove using bacon grease.  (I haven't done it in years, but it is delicious, I can assure you).  My paternal grandmother taught me how to make frosting from scratch, put it on graham crackers to make a scrumptious, highly-refined carbohydrate sandwich fit for a Queen.  My maternal grandpa (we all called him Bampa) could make anything.  He was a man of few words, but a whiz in the kitchen.  When I was in college, I would make the 2 hour trek to see him just to get some homemade mashed potatoes and home grown green beans.  My maternal grandma (everyone just called her Nama) could also make just about anything I asked.  Her specialty:  buttermilk biscuits, from scratch.  A.MAZ.ING!!!  And, I'm not really a huge fan of biscuits (except for those flaky ones that come apart in layers that you get out of a can--it's my one, pre-made, highly processed weakness).

My mom is also a great cook.  She can make anything!  She can cook the heck out of wild game--elk, venison, antelope, you name it!  Her homemade German Chocolate Cake is to die for!  My dad, well, my dad's skills really aren't so much in the culinary arts, but he did teach me to fry Spam a few times when my mom was out of town. . . My brother is probably a better cook than all of us though.  He makes his own venison jerky, elk and venison sausage, steak (from whatever wild game had the misfortune of stumbling across his path) and a mean scrambled egg.  He even knows how to can!  I have to admit, canning has never really been high on my list of things to learn how to do, but I am a bit envious that my brother could single-handedly survive the Apocalypse with his hunting, fishing, farming, cooking, AND canning prowess.  So, the bar has been set pretty high for me in this crazy family of mine.

All that said, Thanksgiving was always a pretty big deal for me.  Everything was from scratch.  Everything was delicious, and everyone pitched in.  When I got married, I realized that it was a pretty overwhelming task to get all that stuff ready in one kitchen without the benefit of 3 generations to help.  I still remember calling my mom that first Thanksgiving just to ask her the specifics of making dressing.  I had been elbow-deep in it for years, but never really paid attention to the proportions of egg, cornbread, regular bread, celery, onion, sage, etc.  Since my grandmother (and mom) didn't really have any of these recipes written down, they would just figure out what was needed, throw all the stuff in a huge bowl and tell me to squish away until it was all mixed together.  So, 12 years ago, I set out on a journey to figure out how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner (it's actually lunch at my house, but it just sounds more American to call it dinner).  My goal: have everything ready at the same time, piping hot, in a pretty serving dish, on the table at 12:30 p.m. SHARP!  The first few years were a dismal failure. . . one year I think it was probably about 2:00 by the time it was done.  I still feel bad about that one, as one of my college friends and her two very, very patient young children were there to join us.

I have, however, managed to refine this task and have decided this year to start passing all of this information down to my kids.  They both really love to help me in the kitchen.  Like my mother and her mother before her, I don't really have many of the recipes written down (except pies, those have to be EXACT!)  So, this year may be a bit of a challenge for me.  I have decided to actually take the time, while I am teaching them, to write stuff down (well, most of it anyway). 

I hope to post updates over the next week of our progress, if anyone is interested.  Anyway, we'll just have to see how it goes. . . should be fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The First Step Toward Ending the Anderson Entitlements

I love to be efficient.  I have to confess, I am an incredibly impatient person. However, I pride myself on the ability to multi-task so that I can get everything done that needs to be done in the shortest amount of time.  With that in mind, I admit, that I rarely take my kids shopping.  For anything.  Ever.   I plan our family meals on a weekly basis and shop for groceries once a week on my way home from work.  I also purchase my kids' clothes when they aren't with me (which has recently started to backfire, now that my daughter has begun to express her own sense of style). 

Rewind to 3 weeks ago. . . I was in a hurry (as usual), and needed to get my son a new pair of pants.  This kid has always had the uncanny ability to ruin a pair of jeans in a single wearing, but that is another story for another day.  I have, on regular occasions, purchased many a pair of jeans from our local kids used clothing store, Once Upon A Child.  So, not thinking anything of it, I decided to make a quick stop as we were driving by.  Yep, you guess it, the kids were with me on this rare impromptu shopping excursion.  Walking in, their eyes were as big as basketballs gazing at the vaguely organized chaos of Once Upon A Child. 

As I started perusing the boys denim aisle, my daughter asked (with horror in her voice) "Have these clothes been worn before?" 
"Yes," was my simple reply. 
"You mean they are USED?"
Then, as I stood there trying to weigh my response, my son asks in his simple matter-of-fact way, "Mom, are we poor?"

GASP!!!! (and pause for effect)

That was the moment it hit me.  Like a ton of bricks falling from the sky, I realized in a single swift moment of horror, the truth.  MY CHILDREN ARE ON A FAST-TRACK TO ENTITLEMENT!!!  Noooooooo, I wailed in my head.  It can't be!  They are first generation Texans.   We live in the country.  Granted, the only agriculture we have been able to properly sustain has been weeds, but still. . . WE LIVE IN THE COUNTRY!!! 

The statistic that had been flying all around the media that particular week (this little life-changing incident was in the weeks leading up to our most recent Presidential election) surrounded the whole idea around the 47%.  You know the one, 47% of people in the US are on some form of government assistance.  The 47% that have been labeled "the takers".  I realized, my children were on the short path to becoming a 47 percenter.  I wanted to lay down, right there on the floor of Once Upon A Child, and have myself a little temper tantrum.

Somehow I managed to pull things together enough to make it out of the store without a scene (no, I did not buy any pants as the urgency of it all had passed as quickly as the realization that I was the worst parent in the world).  So began my search for a way out of the horrible mess that I had single-handedly created over the past nine and a half years.

In sharing this story with a group of close friends, my friend Susan stopped me and told me I needed to read this book.  She told me it was one of the best parenting books she had ever read.  Knowing Susan and her husband to both be exceptional parents with really great kids, I thought "Okay, that sounds like a great idea.  I will download it on my Kindle tonight".  And, download it I did!  I read the entire first chapter the next morning before I had even finished my first cup of coffee.

This is where the real story picks up.  That very day, our family took the first step toward independence and shedding ourselves of the "entitled life".  It just so happened that I had all the supplies necessary to taking that first step--Mason jars (yes, I have a case of Mason jars in the garage--I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY, remember?), ribbon, puffy paint, and a hot glue gun.  Step 1 in the book, "Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement", centered around clutter control.  The author recommended filling a jar with dollar bills--one for each day of the month.  Every day that the assigned tasks weren't completed, a dollar would be removed from the offender's jar.  So, we set about making awesome jars!  My daughter, the artistic one in the family, really took a shine to this part of the task.  We actually had a lot of fun making said jars.  The kids even challenged Dave and I to play along.  Of course, Dave was all over it, as it would simply mean an extra $30 every month he could use on golf balls.  I think the jars turned out very nice!  The kids were excited about things and we were on our way!

Always a stickler for details, my son was very concerned with where the confiscated funds would end up.  So, we had a little fun and created a "Penalty Box" jar.  I haven't quite decided what we should do with the money that ends up here at the end of every month, but I have been toying with perhaps giving it away to a charity or someone in need.  That part is still a work in progress.
We are now on day 3 of the experiment and so far my son is down $1, my daughter is down $2, Dave is on a mission for more golf balls so he has been playing the game with precision.  Of course, being the highly competitive person that I am, I am batting 1,000 too.  However, everyone is still on board.  It has become a great motivator in our house.  We are excited about the possibilities and I am breathing a little easier knowing that I at least have a "plan".
As Lao Tzu says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".  The Anderson bunch has taken our first step on this long journey.  I hope to bring you updates along the way.  I am already so proud of the energy and enthusiasm my kids have shown as they rise to this new challenge!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vanessa's got a blog!

Well, I never thought I would see the day where I decided to start a blog.  I have had several people ask me over the past few years if I had ever considered it, and the answer was always an emphatic "NO!"  However, I have realized that I very much enjoy reading some of my other friends' blogs.  I also very much enjoy writing.  I have gleaned a lot of helpful information about parenting, politics, religion, and most importantly cooking!  I love to cook! I love to eat! I love to be challenged in my faith, my politics, and my parenting. So, I finally decided that since I have enjoyed reading so many other blogs, and I needed an outlet for my writing, it was just about time for me to join the conversation by creating a blog of my own.

Why now, you may ask?  Well, I will tell you. . . I was challenged earlier this year by the leader of an upcoming mission team I am on (which will surely be the topic of a stream of blog posts in the coming months) to start keeping a journal.  I have to admit, I have not done a very good job at this.  It all just seemed so 12-year-old-pre-teen-diary to me.  Blogging, however is much more sophisticated.  I mean, it's on a computer that is password protected after all, not a flowery notebook with a gold lock and a key that I put in my secret hiding place under the bed!  So, today begins my attempt at "journaling" with a little more flavor.

Now, I have to warn you:  if you don't appreciate, or understand sarcasm, you will probably not like my blog.  I consider myself bilingual--I am fluent in English and Sarcasm (in no particular order).  Please, be patient with me as I work through some of the technical aspects of blogging.  I do know how to set a VCR (that statement alone should tell you all you need to know about my technical where-with-all), but my iPhone is still a bit overwhelming for me, and our upcoming upgrade to the Dish Hopper (which I can almost assure you will be the topic for a blog post in the future) has me sweating bullets!!

I really do hope that you are able to take away a nugget or two from my blog.  At the very least, I'm pretty sure that if you hang in there with me, you will eventually find a recipe or two that you just have to try!  I am always open to suggestions about food.  I consider the main level of my house a perpetual "test kitchen".  Just send me an idea, and I will probably give it a whirl!  So, here we go. . .

Happy reading!