How Far Would You Go to Eat Some Chocolate?

I just spent half an hour on the phone calling six different 1-800 numbers just so I could eat some chocolate.

Look, it’s that critical time of the month when I really need my chocolate, you know?

Now the reason I had to spend all that time and effort is due to the fact that my darling husband is a safety nut. A super safety nut, God bless ‘im, who read an article on Friday evening about how the Chinese melamine contamination of milk products had been extended to include chocolate. And he wasn’t clear on precisely which types of chocolate were affected so he banned us from eating any of it. Which was, of course, the right thing to do. Buuuuttt…

Our treat bowl just sat there all weekend, tempting us with its chocolatey-ness while we waited for the Hershey’s, Starbucks, Lindt and Mars offices to open on Monday morning so I could call and verify the safety of consuming their products. (Yeah, we kind of have a lot of chocolate sitting around here. Heh, heh.)

My sugar-monster son would sigh loudly as he searched fruitlessly through the cupboards for “something fun” to eat. We moaned together over our losses throughout Saturday and Sunday.

But fear not chocolate lovers everywhere!

Sacrificing precious writing time, I personally called Hershey’s, Mars, Lindt, and Starbucks today, and all their chocolate and flavored coffees are perfectly safe to eat. Thank goodness! I’m tellin’ ya’, you don’t want to see me when I haven’t had my chocolate. It ain’t pretty.

Image by: Digital Sextant

Pregnancy or Purity...

I had a bit of an adventure with my daughter, Ashleigh, last Friday. She’s taking a psychology class and the teacher assigned the students their first project. Ashleigh had to come up with a psychology experiment, perform it, then type up her results. She brainstormed a lot of really good ideas, but finally settled on the one for which I became her assistant.

Ashleigh is 16 and looks like a typical high school junior. She contacted a maternity store in our local shopping mall, explained her project, and asked if she could borrow one of their maternity pillows—you know, the kind that makes you look pregnant. The store manager of Belli Couture willingly accommodated her request. Ashleigh’s idea was to walk around the mall, approach people of different age groups and ask a question to see how they would respond to her as a single pregnant teen.

We arrived at the maternity shop and entered a dressing room to put on “the pillow.” Suddenly, Ashleigh looked hesitant. “I can’t do this,” she said, uncharacteristically shy. “Plus, I feel like I’m…I dunno, being mean doing this.”

“It’s not mean!” I said. “You’re not making fun of pregnant teens, you’re recording how society responds to them.”

After a little more encouragement she bravely entered the mall. Ashleigh decided the question she would ask would be something along the lines of, “Do you know of any stores in the mall carrying baby bottles and supplies?” My job was to trail her from a good distance behind and take notes on people’s physical and verbal reactions.

The first woman she approached was close to 70. She answered Ashleigh quickly with a shake of her head, her eyes flicking from Ashleigh’s face to her protruding belly and back again several times. After Ashleigh thanked her and moved away, the woman continued to stare after her with some head shaking and a disapproving look.

After that first woman, Ashleigh approached men & women of all different ages, couples with children, and a group of teenage girls (she drew the line at approaching teenage boys! Ha, ha, ha!) And do you know what the most shocking thing about their responses was?

That they weren’t shocked at all!

Aside from the first woman, and an older man, whom Ashleigh didn’t speak with but merely walked past, nobody appeared at all surprised by her appearance. Most people barely glanced at her tummy and never looked back once she’d walked away. Even the group of chattering teenage girls she approached, all turned, looked her in the eye, provided an answer to her question, then turned right back and continued their conversation without missing a beat.

When we finished and returned the pillow to the maternity shop, I commented to the store manager on the surprising lack of response from people. The manager of the shop replied, “Well, I’m not surprised. You see a lot of that kind of thing today.”

What a sad reaction! I think she’s wrong, though. I think her perception is skewed because of where she works.

A report, updated in 2006, on U.S. teenage pregnancy statistics conducted by the Guttmacher Institute shows that the pregnancy rate among 15-19-year-old teenage women in this country is at its lowest level in 30 years—it’s down 36% from its 1990 peak. And there is a growing body of research which suggests that increased abstinence on the part of teens is playing a huge role in that decline.

Those are some encouraging statistics!

I’ve heard some parents say it’s unrealistic to expect their child to remain sexually pure until marriage. In my opinion, those parents are setting up some pretty low expectations for their kids. I give teens today a lot more credit than that.

I’m a bit out of the what’s-cool-in-music loop, but I heard on the radio today that several celebrities, including popular teen pop trio The Jonas Brothers, have been proudly displaying their purity rings. In case you don’t know, a purity ring is worn to symbolize a promise to remain sexually pure until marriage. The middle Jonas brother, 18-year-old Joe, is quoted as saying they wear the rings as “promises to ourselves and to God that we’ll stay pure till marriage.” It’s awesome to hear such positive role models actively proclaiming great moral and spiritual values for kids like that.

You go boys!

Image by: Mahalie

I’m Not a “Real” Soccer Mom…Am I?

We spent last weekend with my brother-in-law’s family. We joined them to watch our niece play in a couple of soccer games and it occurred to me that I’ve officially hit the 10-year mark. I’ve been watching my own kids play soccer for a decade now. But that doesn’t make me a “real” soccer mom, does it?

When my children first started playing, it was really all about the social-ness of the event. I had no idea what was happening out on the field as I chatted away amiably with the other parents. “What? Somebody scored?”

As the years and their skill levels progressed I started paying more attention, still never thinking of myself as a true soccer mom. I’m just a mom, who has kids that play soccer. To my mind there is a definite distinction. Soccer moms are much more soccer-obsessive than me, right?

But what defines “soccer obsessive”?

Does running my kids around to multiple soccer tryouts during the third week of June count?

How about standing on the sidelines and cheering loudly in the rain, sleet, snow, wind, and burning sun in multiple cities and states while they play?

Does being clueless about the rules, but thinking I clearly understand them make me a bona fide soccer mom? Like when I yell, “No pushing!” should another player lay a hand on my kid. “They’re allowed to do that,” my husband whispers before moving quickly away from me, probably concerned about guilt by association.

And I thought I was just being encouraging when a goal is scored and I allow my inner cheerleader to burst forth--jumping from my seat, hands in the air, “Yeah!” (“Knock it off with the spirit fingers, mom!”)

When I’m gripped with the urge to march up to a particularly “foul” player and ask if his or her mother is aware of their language and conduct because I would be ashamed if it were my child, I resist. Doesn’t that show good nonsoccer mom-ish self control?

It’s just normal parental empathy, isn’t it, to feel like I’m out there on the field playing whenever they’re out there on the field playing – experiencing the highs and lows with them every second of the game.

No, not really (sigh). I must acknowledge the truth. I’m a soccer mom, aren’t I.

Well…now I’m starting a new chapter in my life as a soccer mom. My son has completed the soccer referee certification course. He’s so excited to start refereeing games. I’m a bit more apprehensive. What about the stuff we’ve read about how some of the more psycho soccer parents behave towards the refs? I’m a little worried.

There’s no help for it. I’m just going to have to sneak and attend these games incognito. I’ll have to blend in with the parents of whatever sideline he’s working on and say things like:

“Nice call, ref.”

“Good eye, ref.”

I’ll attempt to calm overactive soccer parents with “Let’s keep it professional and be nice to the refs, please.”

And encourage the positive parents, “Gee, that ref is doing a great job, isn’t he. Maybe you should write a letter of appreciation to his boss. Would you look at that! I happen to have the address right here.”

But in order to not give myself away, I’ll have to work really hard on controlling my spirit fingers when he blows his whistle, snaps his flag especially well, or gives out his first yellow card.

Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. I mean, he probably won’t see a lot of action in the Pee Wee division he’s assigned to. On the other hand, you never know what might happen with those soccer moms.

Holly Needs Her Groove Back

Well, it’s the first day of school. I’ve got to tell you, I haven’t been looking forward to it. I know I’m probably considered weird by most of my friends since I haven’t joined in on the “kids are finally outta my hair” dance.

Truth is, they weren’t really in my hair too badly this summer. Maybe because they’re older now, or maybe because my daughter is 16, has a job, a social life, and a car to use so she was gone a lot. But whatever the reason, the kids didn’t fight much this summer and when they were around I enjoyed hanging out with them for the most part. (The 24 hours following a sleepover being the exception!)

And, as I mentioned at the beginning of summer, I loved the freedom from routine. The hassle of getting different kids to different locations for different things all occurring at the same time was making my eye twitch. The break from all that was nice. Real nice.

But on the other hand, when I look back at how sporadically my writing projects progressed all summer long, I can definitely see there were some benefits to the ol’ routine. I sort of lost my writing groove over the summer.

Even though I’d planned to rise at 6:00 a.m. all summer long to work on my writing, well, if one stays up until midnight to look at the stars, roast marshmallows, play board games…c’mon. It ain’t gonna happen! I got up later and later, started working later and later, thus my work hours got shorter and shorter. (Because, of course, I still made time to enjoy the benefits of summer spent with the hubby and kids.)

I’d created a business plan at the beginning of the year, but you can imagine what happened to the record of my achievements over the past couple of months.

Now with the start of school for the kids, I’m looking at a re-start of the work year for myself. I need to get my groove back. I’m going to pull out my goals, give ‘em a fresh look and update as needed. Then I’m going to go at my work full steam ahead. I’m keeping my butt in the chair, fingers to the keyboard.

Even though I can hear the cicadas humming and see the sunshine beckoning.

Yep, here I go.

Um…maybe I’ll do my editing outside today. But I will keep focused and stick to the routine, bearing in mind the words of Robert Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

How about you? Does the start of the school year inspire a re-start in pursuing your own goals?

Okay, that’s it for now. I’m going to have The Young Rascals play me out….

"Groovin-The Young Rascals"