Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your brain grow?

Well it ain't with silver bells and cockel shells.

Guess what? Kids these days probably don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about, nursery rhyme or otherwise. They have no more of an idea as to how their brain grows than who Mary, Mary is. They've got their heads down and their brains on autopilot, navigating through a sea of computer commands and text lingo. Basically, all their thinking is being done for them.

This came across my desk today, and I'm constantly amazed at how these things "appear" just when I've been thinking/talking about them.

The Talent Code: Brainology for All! talks about how these days, kids are learning the basic material - math, English, science, but are lacking the information and skills necessary to make themselves smarter. Like repetition. Like memory work. Like practice.

I have often wondered what makes some people - or more specifically - some kids, more ambitious, or driven, or "accomplished" than others. Yes, I know that everyone is different, and you can't pigeon hole people into successes or failures based on some sort of universal benchmark. But I've always wondered if there was some key ingredient, some parenting method or style, that propagated a type of behavior in a child.

Last year, I was alerted to (and subsequently became involved in) the Brainology Program, instituted by Stanford University professor Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Read about it HERE so I don't have to repeat myself and you don't have to read a really, really long blog post.

As I was reading Daniel Coyle's blog, it reminded me of the Brainology program before he even mentioned it, but he had a little bit of a twist on it. He assembled a
New Bill of Kid Rights. No, it doesn't list out that every kid should have an iPad in order to succeed in school (no matter what my son says to try to convince me). It's more basic than that. Old-school if you will. And definitely something that's missing in today's youth:

The New Bill of Kid Rights:

1. Every child has the right to know how their brain grows.
2. Every child has the right to a teacher who understands how skill develops.
3. Every child has the right to an environment that’s aligned with the way skills grow in the brain.

I got wind that my child maybe wasn't executing his Bill of Rights during middle school. He was doing poorly on tests and I would ask him, "Didn't you study?" To which he would reply, "Yeah, uh, I studied," Then one night I went into his room and asked him to show me how he studied. Turns out, he didn't have a clue. He never really knew what it meant. I suppose he maybe should have figured it out, but it's like anything else. If no one's ever showed you or you've never seen it for yourself, how do you really know?

Now that I have discovered this blog, I'm very interested to read Daniel Coyle's book, "The Talent Code". I think he may have some of the answers to my questions. And while he seems to identify "talent" as the characteristic, I think skills, ambition and drive can also be classified with talent as well. Because it's all cultivated. It's all nurtured. You can't really have one without the other and succeed.

What Coyle basically says in the book is that the key to success includes certain methods of training, motivation and coaching - to teach kids how to acquire skill. No, we're not putting it all on the teachers or leaving it all up to the parents - it should be joint effort by every parent, teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and any other adult mentor in your child's life. Kids have to somehow learn the fundamentals to success - work hard, practice, improve, put forth the effort. THIS is what kids are missing. And it's up to parents and teachers and every other adult they come in contact with to teach it to them, and show them through example. Which means, maybe we have to get our heads out of our a......pple iPods and Pads and Phones and start doing things old school.

It blows my mind that kids today don't know how to look up a word in a dictionary - a real, tangible dictionary. Or hand-write a thank-you letter (let alone address an envelope). Or sit in a library studying for a test using written notes and perhaps flash cards with their friends instead of Googling and Skyping. Or that they ask you to play tennis on the Wii, but have no intention or desire of actually grabbing a racquet and going outside.

Do I need to go on? We wonder why kids are lazy. We wonder why they just skate by and when they're pushed to go the extra mile, ask if there's an "app" for that. They have no idea how their own brains even work, and what they're capable of.

Case in point: The New York Times reported back in September that The College Board said that average SAT scores across the country were down last year, with average marks – all scored out of 800 – of 514 for math, 489 for writing and 497 for reading, a record low. This year’s average composite score was 1,500, down by six points from last year.

I'm not sure what the answer is, because doing what I really want to do - and that's get rid of all electronic devices in the house and forcing my kids to read a book and write out flash cards and go to the library and THINK WITH THEIR OWN BRAINS for a change is going to make me a pretty unpopular parent (but isn't that an oxymoron?) and I don't even know if that would be the wake-up call we all need. I do worry that if they don't learn soon how their brains work and what makes them tick, we're going to be raising a society that is going to be so dependent on having things done for them that talent, drive and ambition will become the exception instead of the norm.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Want a great weekend getaway? Try Southern Illinois.

I think the furthest south I’ve ever been in Illinois isn’t even technically Illinois – St. Louis is about as far as I’ve gotten. I had heard that there was some amazing hiking and beauty in Southern Illinois, but it always seemed so… far.

It’s really not. And it’s well worth the 4-1/2 hour drive.

We left late Friday morning and began our trek. The weather was beautiful on this bright October day. The sun reflected on the changing trees, and the further south we drove, the more colorful they became. The flat plains of Central Illinois gave way to rolling hills and breathtaking landscape. We could almost feel ourselves breathe a relaxing sigh as we made our way to our home away from home for the weekend, The Davie School Inn in Anna, IL.

The Davie School Inn was built in 1910 and served as a public school until 1996. The proprietors, Gary and Andrea Dahmer, bought the schoolhouse in 2002 and completed renovations in 2006. Each classroom has been turned into a suite – 11 in all. What’s amazing is that for as many modern conveniences as there are (fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, kitchenettes and private baths), they still managed to keep the atmosphere of the old schoolhouse. Many rooms still have the original hardwood floors and chalkboards. School desks and even the original water fountains still remain.

Gary was a delightful host, and had excellent recommendations as well as interesting stories. Former students and teachers from the school had actually stayed in the Inn, some in their old classrooms. Every year, Gary and his wife, Andrea, host a party for alumni, the oldest a spry 103 years.

Our suite, formerly the kindergarten room, was an 850 square foot hideaway complete with king-size bed, sitting area with leather couch and flat screen TV, gas fireplace, kitchenette with coffee maker sink, refrigerator and microwave, Jacuzzi tub and shower. A door at the back headed out to a small patio amidst mature trees. The room itself was decorated with lovely antiques,but still had a modern quality that made it quaint and comfortable.

We checked in and had an informative conversation with Gary, who gave us hiking and biking recommendations as well as some restaurant don’t-misses.We headed out late in the afternoon and drove north to Giant City State Park, an impressive 4,000 acre wilderness paradise. Unfortunately, the Visitor’s Center was closed, so we made our way to the lodge to ask for directions. We’re not sure if we got on the right trail or not – we think not, but we did enjoy several miles of “Horse Trail”, minus the sidestepping of equine poop. After some precarious rocky terrain, we came upon some impressive sandstone structures that almost looked like meteors dropped from the sky. We made it back just before nightfall and were given a farewell by an ornery screech owl,who scared the daylights out of me.

Ready for some sustenance, we headed to the Blue Boar Restaurant, which had been recommended to us. After taking a wrong turn down a gravel path (according to the picture on the GPS, we dropped off the face of the earth), we finally drove down a windy road and saw a small, 8 x 10 paper sign with an arrow that said “Blue Boar”. Needless to say, we were not optimistic. How wrong we were. The Blue Boar is a open lodge full of eclectic wall hangings including animal heads on one side, New Orleans-style instruments on the other, and sports memorabilia over the full bar. A one-man band entertained us on the guitar from a balcony perch overlooking the mess hall-style room, which felt cozy with tables of families and friends who all seemed to know each other. We dined on excellent steaks and imbibed in the pumpkin ale that the waitress recommended, and I dare say it was one of the most comfortable meals we had ever had.

The next morning, Gary delivered breakfast to our room at 9:30 am sharp – a bountiful display of some sort of egg and spinach and cheese scramble, spicy hash browns, bacon, and the most amazing pastries. Oh, and fruit. According to him, all of it was fat-free. After breakfast, we ventured behind the Inn to Anna Park and found the tennis courts for a few sets. Amidst the pee-wee football teams playing on the fields next to us and the cool, crisp autumn air, it felt like a piece of Americana.

Perhaps not realizing our limitations, we loaded up our bicycles and headed over to the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, a 28.7 mile stretch of rolling woodlands and farm fields interrupted (conveniently) by strategically-placed local wineries.

We should have read the full description of the Trail, which says, “Consuming great amounts of wine and bicycling narrow, winding, hilly roads is a treacherous enterprise. Use care when combining the vino with the velo.” Upon commencing our trek, we were greeted by “Hill #1”. I call it that because it wasn’t the only one. There were SOOOO many more. I kept thinking, “We’ve gone up so much; eventually we will have to go down.” We did, but it was always paired with another “up”. I had to walk my bike up many of the steep inclines, and was more than thankful, when, after about 6-1/2 miles, we reached the first winery, StarView.

The tasting room was crowded (a limo had pulled in right before us), but we finally had our Chardonel and Vignoles in hand and ventured out to the lake next to the vineyard and took a break to take in the breathtaking view and watch the koi swim in the pond. We could have easily stayed there all day, but we had miles to go.

About 6-1/2 more treacherous miles later, we arrived (panting)at Blue Sky Vineyards, an incredibly impressive, Tuscan-style winery. Having been to the California Wine Country, I was impressed at how “like that” it was. We sat on the patio and enjoyed a Chambourcin and a White Wine Sangria while munching on cheese and sausage, crackers and grapes. The pavilion overlooked an expansive, grassy area full of tables near a large pond, and a folk singer serenaded us nearby. Again, we could have called it quits there.

But no – we ventured on. Again, another six or so miles later, we made our final stop at Owl Creek Vineyard, a rustic, simple place that was bustling with patrons. A bluegrass band entertained outside in the bed of an old, rusted out pickup truck, singing songs like “Constant Sorrow” from Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? We both sampled the Seyval Blanc, and before we could try the “ChardonOwl” or the “Whooos Blush”, we had closed the place down.

Finally back in a vehicle that didn’t require pedaling, we headed to nearby Cobden and found The Palace Pizzeria, famous for their Double Crust Pizza. They also sold most of the wines from our tour, but by then, I settled for the Saluki Porter. After a 20 mile bike ride, the pizza was the best I had ever tasted.

The next morning, our muscles were screaming from the prior day’s exercise. Gary delivered breakfast (thank goodness; I probably could not have made it down to the kitchen). This time it was a dish he said he had finally perfected – a cross between a French toast and a bread pudding, with a nutty caramel sauce. I expected it to be heavy and rich, but instead it was light and extremely flavorful, and served with sausages and melon. After that hearty meal, we checked out of our room, but not before sitting in Gary’s office (the old principal’s office) to hear more stories of the Davie School Inn. We even viewed the old bell clock and the safe where the milk money was kept.

Hoping to stretch out our tired muscles, we headed homeward, but stopped at the Pomona Natural Bridge, one of those “are we going the right way because I’m not seeing anything and we’ve been on this gravel road for miles” treks. We did a short, hilly hike and walked across the sandstone bridge that had been created by years of water erosion. What amazed me most was not only this natural beauty, but the diversity of trees in this forest – far more than what you see in Central Illinois.

From there, we headed home, and the rolling landscape and colorful foliage gave way to flatter plains and less impressive-looking colors. But what I will remember is the beauty of that region of Illinois that I never realized was there. And there’s so much more we didn’t see - the main part of Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods, Little Grand Canyon… all saved for another weekend.

Thanks to Gary at Davie School Inn for giving us an amazing resting place, to my companion who made the weekend one to remember, and to God for creating such a beautiful place so close to home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What exactly are we occupying here?

Occupy Wall Street. According to Business Insider, this "movement" is fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right. (And by the way, I love the sign the woman is holding that says, "One day the poor will have nothing left to eat but the rich.")

Wikipedia states that "The participants are mainly protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed, as well as the power and influence of corporations, particularly from the financial service sector, and lobbyists over government."

Forbes Magazine cites the Occupied Wall Street Journal with the battle cry, “Rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished!”

You guys might be in for a loooong haul.

Before all you Occupy Peoria and other Occupy groups jump my s**t, I'm not knocking the movement here. It's just that I don't quite understand it.

It's a "leaderless movement", fueled by the 99% theory: "The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%." The one percent being the outrageously wealthy, I assume.

Well, if you put it that way, the odds look like they're in our favor.

Here's another good synopsis, straight from occupywallst.org:
Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.

Again, sounds good. I'm with ya. But what are you doing? Fighting back. Inspired popular uprisings. Exposing the rich. Then what?

I guess I'm the type of person that wants to know how exactly this marching and sign holding and protesting is going to cause anything to change. Is it the "squeaky wheel" principle? The ones who make the most noise get the most attention? And what attention is it that they want?

Don't get me wrong - I'm familiar with the protests of the 60's. How people took a stand - were even beaten and/or arrested for what they believed in. It's very First Amendment, and I applaud those that felt so strongly about it that they were willing to go to such lengths for their cause.

Maybe I'm just not seeing the forest for the trees. Maybe I'm seeing this like the disgruntled worker who complains about his job all the time to his co-workers and even his boss but isn't really sure what to do about it.

What I want to know is what Occupy Wall Street's end-all, be-all is. I found this blog called Irregular Times that gave me a bit of an idea. It listed Occupy Wall Street's demands: "End capital punishment. End police intimidation. End wealth inequality. End corporate censorship. End the modern gilded age. End political corruption. End joblessness. End poverty. End health-profiteering. End American imperialism. End war."

WOW. That's a lot to ask. Can we pare it down a little? And then maybe we could have a plan for each of them then slowly make our way down the list? And are these really all Wall Street's fault?

Again, please understand. I'm just asking for some clarification. I appreciate Occupy Wall Street's "mission", if you will, and I have friends who are Occupy Peoria supporters and I see their passion. It's undeniable. But before I can even think about getting on board, I really have to know not only what I'm getting on board FOR, but what the plan is to embark on a journey to make these immense changes.

Whatever the goals, there must be something to it for half of Americans (according to a recent Time survey) to be involved, with 1500 protests in 82 countries (as of October 15). And if you go to the website, We Are the 99 Percent, you will definitely be moved at the poignant, hand-written stories and photos of struggling Americans.

But still... what's the plan, Occupy?














Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top 10 questions kids ask their parents... then and now

I like to tell stories to my kids about when I was a kid. Inevitably, it bites me in the ass later on when I hear myself responding to the same questions I asked my parents 31 years ago... but with very different answers now. I try to tell them it's such a different world today, but they just have no idea. Here's a compilation of the Top 10 questions my kids have asked me, and how they were answered "back then" versus now.

Q: Can I stay out after dark?
A (1980): Sure, as long as you tell me where you're going and you're home by 9:00.
A (2011): No, because I don't know where you are even though you have a phone that you don't answer and you're on your bike with no headlight and there are too many crazies out there after dark who might hit you/mug you/kidnap you.

Q: Can I spend the night at my friend's house?
A (1980): Sure, because you've been friends with this person since preschool and I'm best buds with the mom.
A (2011): No, because I've never met this kid's parents and I don't even know his last name. I don't know if they live in filth, if they smoke and drink, or if they have firearms in the house.

Q: Can I watch this TV program?
A (1980): Sure, but cover your eyes when Daisy Duke bends over.
A (2011): What can I do about it? All your friends watch it. Just see if the guy is wearing a condom when he has sex with that hooker.

Q: Can I type something on the computer?
A (1980): Sure, just let me turn it on and we'll let it boot up while I'm making dinner.
A (2011): Sure, but first let me disable the WiFi so you can't access porn on the Internet or click on something that's going to give me a computer virus.

Q: Can I have some money to get a soda at the game?
A (1980): Use your allowance money.
A (2011): What happened to the money I gave you last week? Did you spend it all on Red Bull and cigarettes?

Q: Why are you so strict?
A (1980): I'm not as strict as some moms. Some day you'll thank me.
A (2011): Because some moms aren't strict enough. Some day you'll thank me.

Q: Why can't I do it? Everyone else is doing it!
A (1980): If they jumped off a bridge, then would you?
A (2011): If they went to court for emancipation from their parents, then would you?

Q: Can I get a tattoo?
A (1980): No.
A (2011): Sure. That's actually the least of my worries. But the forked tongue and pierced eyebrow? No.

Q: Why do I need to get good grades?
A (1980): So you don't have to go to a community college and can get a scholarship to a good, 4-year school.
A (2011): So you can do two years at a community college then hopefully get a grant or scholarship to do your final two years at a state school and have better odds of getting a decent job even though by the time you get out in the workforce the unemployment rate will be well into the upper double digits.

Q: Why can't you just leave me alone?
A (1980): Because I'm your mother and I love you.
A (2011): Because I'm your mother and I love you.

















Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm not a control freak; I just need to have a handle on everything. All the time.

OK, OK. I'm a control freak. But I'm not proud of it. And I really don't know how to change it.

I'm not sure when it all started. I think I was always relatively ambitious growing up, but I always thought that being that way was just "what you did". I always lived on my own, managed my meager amounts of money and took care of what needed to be taken care of. "Independent", I called it. I mean, what else was I going to do?  

Maybe that's when it started - when I took independence a little too far and took such control of my life (ha... I didn't even realize I typed that) that it started being more of a curse than a blessing.

Oh, it comes in handy. I see a lot of obstacles as challenges because it's a lot easier to sit around and try to find a solution to the problem than it is to wallow in it. Although, I do my fair share of wallowing, too. And if I do have to ask someone for help or somehow give up some control, I feel weak - like I couldn't handle it. And giving up control means that the outcome may not be how I would do it, and I may not even know when it will be done. So to eradicate that angst, it's just easier to keep it all to myself.

Case in point #1:  I used to get upset with my ex-husband because I would ask him to do something and he seemed to never get around to doing it. At one point he said to me, exasperated, "I don't do it because by the time I get around to it you've already DONE it!"

Point taken.

Up until now, I always thought control has served me well. It's made me self-sufficient and helped me feel empowered. It's given me something to hold onto when my world seems to be spinning. But I've also discovered it's starting to take its toll.

Case in point #2:  My son is at that age where he is starting to hang out more with friends - friends I don't know and whose moms I've never met. He's gone for hours and I have to trust that he's where he says he is. I have no idea what's going on with his schoolwork other than checking his grades on the school website. I've never heard of three quarters of the people he has friended on Facebook. And he has more email addresses than I can even keep track of.

That drives me insane. Not that he's doing anything wrong, just that I can't VERIFY this stuff. I don't have control of it. I'm not dropping him off at his friend's house and hanging around for coffee with the mom. I'm not on the PTC of the high school. I suppose I could be, but I think he would hate that. It's time to try to let go a little bit. I can't possibly have control over the choices he makes, good or bad. And at this point, not only is it not a good idea for my own mental health, it's not good for him, either. HE has to take the control, and I have to sit in the passenger seat like some Driver's Ed teacher and just apply the brake on my side of the car if it becomes absolutely necessary.

And that's hard. Because I am so tempted to just lightly ride the brake the WHOLE time, just to be safe.

Case in point #3: I was telling a good friend today about a relationship I have, and some issues that had occurred recently. I admitted I was probably too independent and controlling for my own good. She asked me, "What do you think would have happened if you gave up a little of that control and independence?" That gave me pause, and the only response I could think of was, "Then I wouldn't be who he fell in love with. I would be needy, and that would make me feel vulnerable."

Sooooo.... THAT'S it. I don't want to feel vulnerable. It makes me wonder - does my mom feel vulnerable? She is one of the most independent (and a little controlling) people I know, yet she doesn't pump her own gas or go to the ATM. My dad does that. Doesn't make her less of a person in my eyes. As I see it, he takes care of her - that's what he does. So why can't I do that - let someone take care of me? Why can't I find that balance? And does it even exist?

What I find so funny is that some people - who don't know me well - apparently think I have it so together. Maybe that's the "control" aspect of my personality coming out. In my head, I feel very, very out of control, so maybe I just ACT like I'm in control to feel more... in control.

Sigh.

They say that when you feel out of control, the best thing to do is to accomplish one, small thing. Fold a basket of laundry. Clean out a junk drawer. Wash a window. If you've been to my house, you know it's virtually spotless most of the time. Enough said.

There has to be a happy medium with this control thing. There has to be a way to have enough of a handle on life without having to take my hands completely off the wheel. Maybe that's what I'll try to accomplish in the second half of my 40's - taking my foot off the gas and pushing the cruise control every once in awhile - and just focus on keeping my eyes on the road.







Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is the grass greener or is it really just AstroTurf?

I always wonder what makes other people's grass seem so damn green.

I don't know why. For some reason, I feel the need to know how others live their lives to gauge whether I'm living mine correctly, or to the fullest, or however it is I'm "supposed" to live my life. I'm like the guy who sits on his porch and wonders why his neighbor's lawn looks like a golf course when his looks like a hayfield.

Anyway, I've always kind of had this timeline for my life. You go to college, whether you're ready or not. Then you move away from home so no one thinks you're one of those "losers" who remained in your hometown (Face it, Peorians. When you left high school, you know you felt this way.) You have a successful career. Then you meet the man of your dreams and get married. Usually a lavish wedding. Then you have two kids, a boy and a girl. Then you become a stay-at-home mom, and dad comes home every night around 5:30 and you all eat dinner together then play Scrabble until bedtime. Once a month, you get a sitter and have "date night".

As your kids grow, you become friends with all the moms of their friends. You car pool to all their sports activities. You play Bunco. You have all their friends over before school dances to take pictures. You cry when they go to college, then either go back to work or volunteer in some worthwhile organization until your husband retires, then you travel to exotic places until the grandkids are born.

That's about as far as I've gotten in that life plan. Trouble is, I got off track at about sentence two, and at this point I don't know that I'm going to make my scenario in the least bit.

But what IS normal? I did get married, but it certainly wasn't lavish. I never had the husband who was home by 5:30 every night - sometimes it was every other WEEK. I did make great friends when the kids were in grade school. But now that they're older, and I've relocated, and they're NOT in sports (in a very sports-minded community), there is no car pool. No mother camaraderie. My older son's friends don't hang out here because I don't have Halo or Gears of War (I had to ask my kids the names of these), or the latest XBox or whatever the hell is the newest idiot box.

I work because a) I love what I do and b) I have to make a living. And though I work a less than 40 hour workweek in the office and the rest at home freelancing, I'll probably be working more and more for the rest of my life, so I'm not sure how much traveling I'll be doing.

Don't get me wrong. I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I have a good life. I have many blessings that I've gushed about before. I choose to sacrifice a more lucrative and progressive career because I am still raising my kids, and they will be gone before I know it. My issue is the perception in my mind of how I "should" be living my life based on how I think others are doing it.

Take work. How many hours a week are you at a job? 15? 30? 40? 60? One job or two? Why do you work the hours you do? Is it because you have to? Is it because you want to? Is it because you think it's expected of you? If you work more than 40 hours a week, do you wish you didn't? And what would you do to change it if you could? And why don't you? (Cue my Pastor in last week's sermon, "You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.")

And what do you do when you're not working? Are you home with family? If you have teens or pre-teens, do you still spend quality family time together or are they locked in their rooms listening to heavy metal or transfixed in front of the TV watching SpongeBob? And do they roll their eyes when you "demand" that they turn off their electronic devices and do something archaic like go for a bikeride? Or is that even an issue at your house? Do you even bother? Should I bother?

What about your friends? Do you have a lot of friends? Does your phone ring often? Are they friends you've had since childhood? Friends you've made through your kids' schools? Friends you've made via marriage? I feel as if in this new community I've moved to the other side of the world. They all know each other and I don't know that I'll ever be able to "break in". And even if I do, I don't know if I'll "fit in". Is there a "fitting in" at my age?

And speaking of "my age" (mid 40's), are any of you comparable women or men out there wondering "is this it?" I feel like I'm at a point in my life where my parenting requirements aren't as hands-on as they used to be (which is fine). I feel like I spend half my time waiting for my kids to come home, paralyzed to do anything of my own for fear they'll need me - or fear they'll do something they're not supposed to because I'm not home. What do mid-40's working moms DO when they have time to themselves and there are no kids to parent but you still need to be there "just in case"?

I think I've convinced myself that everyone else's grass is really, really green, and if I just figure out what makes it that way, I can replace mine with the real deal. Or maybe I just need to chill out a little. OK, THEN what?

My point is this. I love life. I want to live it. I want to work, I want to parent, but I am finding that I need MORE. Is that greedy? I just feel like there's more I should be doing. I mowed the lawn. Now do I fertilize? Do I edge?

Maybe I should just fess up and admit that it's fake grass and figure that everyone else is doing the same. I somehow don't believe that's true, though.