The Art of Doing Nothing

Desk

The boys were supposed to begin swim practice three weeks ago. The first week we didn’t go because it was the first week of school. I thought it would be too chaotic. The second week we didn’t go because I was so sick. There was no way I was getting out of bed for beginning/intermediate swim practice. This week, the third week, we had choir practice on the first day of practice and a parent-teacher open house on the second day of practice. On both days we got home after our usual dinner time and by consequence went to bed late. In my case, very late. On Wednesday we could have gone to practice. It was the first day in several weeks where we didn’t have another obligation to meet and the boys had light homework. If ever there was a day to spend two hours at a pool, this was it.

We didn’t go, obviously. I pulled away from the school parking lot and decided we would have a late afternoon/evening of just nothing instead of going home, changing, and then eating a quick snack on the way to practice. Mikey was excited about the idea. Nico, wasn’t as excited. He likes swim practice, but he’s in the beginner’s group. They aren’t exactly on an Olympian training schedule.

For months I’ve been debating what to do about the boys and their activities. Choir is nonnegotiable. We feel strongly that they should be involved in at least one church ministry. Mikey wants to continue with clarinet lessons. He loves it, and his teacher thinks that by 7th grade he could audition for a youth symphony in our area. Nico wants to do an instrument, too, but he doesn’t seem in love with piano. He keeps talking about trumpet/clarinet/drums/violin. So, anything but piano.

If we did choir, music, and swimming, there would be an after school activity Monday-Friday. It’s too much. I can’t do it and we can’t afford it. I guess if we tightened up our belts (more) we could, but the reasons why I should do that elude me.

Origami Dino

Our pediatrician repeats at every annual checkup that physical activity is key to healthy childhood, which is why the boys have always been in sports. But the other day I realized they don’t need to be on a formal team to get physical activity. I know that sounds obvious, but I can’t be the only one who has forgotten that you can get physical activity just by playing outside! Riding bikes, playing kickball in the street, shooting hoops, etc. are all ways to exercise. This realization reminded me of a passage from Simplicity Parenting, my favorite book on parenting.

Three out of four kids quit youth sports by the age of thirteen. Too many of the 40 million kids who play organized youth sports get seriously injured, emotionally scarred or simply learn the wrong lessons about teamwork, social cooperation and leadership. It’s downright tragic that at precisely the age when kids are physically, emotionally, socially and neurologically primed to benefit most from team sport participation, they opt out in droves.

This is another interesting excerpt from an article on the decline of risky play in children thanks to our concern they will hurt themselves. (Guilty.)

An ironic fact is that children are far more likely to injure themselves in adult-directed sports than in their own freely chosen, self-directed play. That’s because the adult encouragement and competitive nature of the sports lead children to take risks–both of hurting themselves and of hurting others—that they would not choose to take in free play. It is also because they are encouraged, in such sports, to specialize, and therefore overuse specific muscles and joints. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.5 million children per year under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries. That’s about 1 out of every 7 children engaged in youth sports. Sports medicine for children has become a big business, thanks to adults who encourage young pitchers to throw so hard and so often they throw out their elbows, encourage young football linemen to hit so hard they get concussions, encourage young swimmers to practice so often and hard they damage their shoulders to the point of needing surgery. Children playing for fun rarely specialize (they enjoy variety in play), and they stop when it hurts, or they change the way they are playing. Also, because it’s all for fun, they take care not to hurt their playmates. Adults, who get all wrapped up in winning and may hope for eventual scholarships, work against nature’s means of preventing damage.

Here is a link to the entire article.

Staying home was incredible. I cleaned out Nico’s folder and finished all outstanding paperwork. The boys had their homework finished before dinner, which we ate early. I had time to read with Nico, who really needs my attention in this department. He’s an incredible but extremely insecure reader. Mikey had time to study for an English test until he felt confident with the material. Later, I went through the chapter with him and quizzed him on some concepts. Subject! Predicates! Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? While the boys took their evening showers, I made our lunches for tomorrow. Now I’m writing a post and getting ready to go to bed. If this is life without sports, I might take it.

p.s. I walked into Nico’s classroom at parent/teacher night and knew which desk was his without having to read the name tags on the desks. SIGH. The second picture is an Origami Diplodocus from Mikey.

Catching Up

Origami Yoda

I have a long list of posts I will never write. I actually sat down last week and wrote out a plan because there are so many projects and thoughts from the summer that I never shared, and then God looked over my shoulder as I ended my list with a flourish and said to Himself, “LOL, how adorable. I’ll give her the worst head cold ever.”

The cold was worth it, though, because on the day I felt my very worst, I came back to bed after doing homework with Nico and found this Origami Yoda note from Mikey on my pillow. So, so awesome. It’s one of those things I will never throw away.

Waffles

Not so subtle mom-brag moment over. Let’s move on to some other super-exciting stuff you can’t live without knowing!

Last week was bad. I had to pay for the boys to have hot lunch and breakfast at school, there was nothing to eat for dinner, and I was all-around miserable. I vowed to myself that I would take better care of myself and our home. No more sleeping less than I should, skipping meals, and working until I’m sick or exhausted. So far, so good. I’ve gone to bed early, had breakfast every day, and have been working on saying NO. I was feeling so good about my progress that on Sunday I made their lunches for Monday and Tuesday and later that night I made a week’s work of waffles. Breakfast for the week, done!

I was smugger than a mom with an instagram account and a bento box. In fact, I did instagram my brilliance! Too bad I didn’t have time to instagram breakfast the following morning. I don’t use the microwave preset keys that often–too high tech for me–but on that morning we were running behind so I grabbed a four frozen waffles and chucked them into the microwave like a discus wielding Olympian. Then I pressed some buttons, not really sure which, and returned to headless chicken flapping. I decided to cut the microwave short a couple of minutes later; the boys would have to deal with slightly cold waffles. Imagine my surprise when I opened the microwave and found the waffles expanded to 32 times their normal size. Then they collapsed in a rubbery, steaming display of defeat similar to the fall of the Hindenburg.

They were obviously overcooked, so I did what came naturally. I pulled them out of the microwave and yelled, “Boys, your waffles are ready!”

To their credit, the boys tried valiantly to eat the waffles, abandoning forks and knives midway through breakfast so they could tear at them with their hands and teeth. I don’t mean to brag, but I think I invented Wheat Jerky.

Glasses

Nico wears glasses now. I think he looks like Clark Kent and is super, super adorable.

Shoes

The other day at school someone made a comment about my blue shoes. The next day I wore red shoes and at that moment realized I only own one pair each of brown and black shoes. The rest are blue, orange, red (two), pink, black and white striped, yellow, and gold. This must be my subconscious trying to justify why I wear the same pair of Target skinny jeans every day.

Sunset

Last little something! Last night Mikey came in from getting seed for Buttercup and said, “Mom, you have to go outside and take a picture of the sunset. Seriously, right now.” So I did.

Veggie Boy

Veggie Boy 2

I walked a few days last week, but I spent the majority of the time wrapping books, decorating the library, and painting the 4th grade classroom. Since I can sum up a week like that in one sentence (see above), I thought I’d talk about kids and how they can inspire action.

Immediately after bringing home Buttercup, Nico stopped eating chicken. Shortly after that he stopped eating beef, and not long after it was pork. Now we when go to restaurants he says, “I don’t eat cows or birds or pigs.” He eats veggie burritos or tacos at Mexican restaurants, burgers or sandwiches without the meat at casual dining spots, tofu stir-fries at Chinese restaurants (we’ve only been once because Mikey and the Mister don’t like Chinese food), and his favorite pizza is pineapple and onion.

People think it’s cute, but they think it’s just the whim of a 7 year old boy. Even I wondered about the strength of his dedication when we went to my mother in-law’s house. But he turned down her pot roast, which he loves, and when we asked him if he wanted gravy (true test) he said no because “gravy is made from cows.” He looked at us like we were dimwitted for not putting together the beef gravy = cow-thing.

Nico will occasionally eat fish. Dairy is a no-go unless it is an accent and even in tacos and burritos he asks for no cheese/sour cream.

Mikey says he doesn’t have what it takes to be a vegetarian.

Cooking to appease both boys has been challenging. Already I’m getting well-meaning advice from family and friends. Don’t let him eat soy. Don’t let him eat too many carbs. Were is he getting his protein? He’s going to get anemic. You’ll stunt his growth. The comments all come from a place of concern and love, so I don’t take offense.

The Mister isn’t a problem. He eats whatever I make and has already cut down the amount of meat he eats. He says Nico inspires him. The pediatrician said that I should not discourage Nico and that he wished all his patients were budding vegetarians. I have the support of Nico’s dad and his pediatrician, and that’s enough for me.

Nico says it’s important to him that I do this too, and of course I will. It’s not like he’s asking me to join him in his den of ill repute! That said, I do need some advice. We don’t know any vegetarian families. We definitely don’t know any vegan families. I’m not afraid of being different or trying something new. I consider this an exciting adventure and am up for the challenge. I’m hoping someone here has a vegetarian/vegan family that can lead the way and give me tips.

Snickers Update

Week 2

Yesterday I was running late. I had to take the boys to swim and then go to a meeting at their school. In order to get ready, I had to stop in the middle of feeding Snickers and ask the Mister to take over. I’ve been very good about doing all the Snickers work myself, both because I’m the one who brought the bird home and because this would be the time I bring home a baby animal with a rare communicable disease that turns everyone into ducks. Better safe than sorry.

But asking him to finish Snickers was unavoidable. So I knocked on his office door and said please and thank you and you’re awesome. I noticed him smiling at Snickers getting so excited about the bottle and as I ran by I said, “It’s fun, huh, to feed something so little.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But she still hit every ugly branch in the tree on the way down.”

I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but Snickers is alive and well. Lots of changes in just one week, too!

Growing!

Snickers was unfeathered all over but the wings two weeks ago, and even those still had feather sheaths. (You can see that picture here.) S/he couldn’t walk, couldn’t perch (stand on my finger), and really couldn’t stand very well, either. Snickers spend the first few days sleeping and eating. Come to think of it, s/he still spends most of the day sleeping and eating, but stays awake longer after eating.

Other changes including perching for a few seconds at a time. We work on that every day. Snickers can now stand and there is a little bit of walking/hopping, but only when the bottle comes out. It’s more of an adorable shuffle. And, you can see in Snicker’s sexy wing picture, the feather sheaths are starting to dissolve and some downy feathers (in gray and white) are coming in on the back and side. The yellow fuzz on the neck is gone, and today I noticed that some feathers are coming in on the neck and a couple on the head. The head is still yellow fuzz, but I bet in a week or we’ll have more feathers than fuzz.

Lastly, we are spending more time outside. I read that birds at the fledgling stage, which Snickers is fast approaching, spend some time on the ground or on low perches. The Mister and the boys are researching outdoor pigeon houses to build for Snickers. I’ll move Snickers there and, hopefully, once s/he is ready to fly, that will be that. I’m hoping to have that house set up in the next week or two.

When I first brought home Snickers, s/he was drinking from a baby pet bottle with the nipple snipped to the bottom. Now that s/he has almost doubled in size (!!) I’ve started cutting fingers off of rubber gloves and poking holes in them. The video above is of Snicker’s 3rd time using the rubber glove “nipple.” Snickers hasn’t quite got the hang of it, but the learning curve sure is cute!

What I Wouldn’t Do for a Snickers

I try to always learn from my mistakes. Really. This is why this time, I didn’t call the Mister. (So impersonal!) This time I walked into the house and simply stated, “We have a problem.”

To which he responded, “What the hell is that?!”

Snickers, just met

With a long-suffering sigh I said, “A baby bird. Obviously. He needs my help so I had to bring him home. My hands were tied!” My hands are often tied, just in case you’re new here.

“I know what it is,” he said. “I meant what is it doing in your hand and inside our house?”

It’s like he missed the whole part about the baby bird needing me and my hands being tied. Like all good stories, I began at the beginning.

I was on my way to the pharmacy, approaching a 3-way Stop-Sign intersection. I made my stop and thought I saw something on the ground. I looked behind me and saw a car in the distance, so I took the opportunity to reverse a bit to see what it was. It was a bird.

Seconds later, when the car behind me pulled up–young guy, tattooed sleeves–I walked up to him and explained the situation. “I’m going to move it off the road,” I said. “I shouldn’t take a minute.” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed another car stop.

He mumbled something in typical young guy fashion as I ran over to shoo it, only to see it was a very young bird–mostly fuzz and a few feathers. You can’t shoo something that can’t walk! As I got closer, a boy Mikey’s age ran over to pick up the bird–or at least tried to if his motions to pick up the bird while simultaneously recoiling in horror were any indication. I debated letting him do it, maybe even helping him out, thinking it would be a great opportunity for the boy to get in touch with nature. Or whatever.

Then the boy’s mother, who was parked in the middle of the road with her son’s car door wide open, leaned back and at the top of her voice screamed, “¡Agárralo!” (Translation: Grab it!)

I objected to her tone. The tone that suggested we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and before us lay the last crossbow known to man. I thought if she wanted the bird so much, she should have pulled her car to the side of the road and pick it up herself, since her son was clearly terrified of being pecked to death.

Then she screamed “¡Agárralo!” again, but in that distinctive way Hispanic mothers have, mine included, where they elongate the accented syllable with a ferocious roar until all they have left is a gasp of air with which to spit out the rest of the word. So, instead of ‘¡Agárralo!’ it was more like ‘¡Agáaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…rralo!’.

I leaned over and plucked the bird from the ground without sparing the woman another glance. I couldn’t! By this point, my side of the Stop-Sign intersection was 4 cars deep. The tattooed boy knew what I was doing, so he was patient. The car behind him had two women with enormous 1980s bangs. They were not as understanding as I climbed into a plant border with trees and laid the baby bird down among the leaves. Curious, I thought, that those women should be so rushed for time when their hair was running 30 years behind.

Snickers, face

I got in my car, put it in drive, and then immediately pulled over to the side of the road and went to look for the bird. I saw images of him being torn apart by cats! I took him home to call animal control so they could pick him up and rehabilitate/release.

“So you see,” I said to the Mister as I finished my story. “We aren’t keeping the bird. We’re just holding it until animal control gets here in a couple of hours.”

Animal Control arrived two hours later. I handed over the bird, which at this point I had in Buttercup’s special carrier with some seed. I watched the agent walked away with my little rescued friend in the palm of his hand. “Out of curiosity,” I asked. “What will you do with the bird?”

“Honestly? We’ll put it down. We don’t have the man-power or the resources to care for another wild animal.”

I thought about the Mister inside and how he didn’t want another pet. I thought about how I told him I wasn’t bringing home another stray. “Can I keep it and take care of it?”

At least I thought about it.

“Well, sure,” the agent said. “I mean, I figured you would be a good person to give a try seeing that you have a special carrier. For your bird. You, uh, seem like a bird person.”

Snickers, side

Ten seconds later I was back inside the house with the bird in my hand. “We have another problem,” I called out.

“What is it this time, Doctor Dolittle?”

“Would you believe my hands were tied, again?”

“No.”

Snickers, bottle

And that’s how I came to bottle feed a baby bird on a Saturday night. Mikey named him/her Snickers, which I think is perfect. I took Snickers to a bird farm and they said he/she will need to be bottle fed for at least another 3-4 weeks. After that, we can wean him and get him ready for release. We aren’t sure if he is a pigeon or a mourning dove, and we won’t have a definitive answer for weeks. They’re in the same family, Columbidae, so they look very similar when young.

Only I touch the bird, much to Mikey and Nico’s disappointment. I think it’s safer, even though we had the bird checked and it’s healthy. Also, I don’t want Snickers too accustomed to humans since we’ll be releasing him in a month. Even then, if everything I have read is true, Snickers will return to visit us often.

As for the Mister, as I type this he is checking on Snickers, the bird he didn’t want.

Snickers Fuzzy Head

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.