Ultimate Stress Reliever

As the start of the school year approaches, I feel myself settling in the traditional hyperventilation mode I hit every fall. There is so much to do! And with a college senior who was gone half the summer, our days are now crammed with researching and visiting college campuses, searching for scholarships, and generally floundering around feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Plus, fall soccer started for my son (Yeah, yeah, I’m a soccer mom and proud of it!) with all its obligatory practices, and games. Lately, I feel like I’m constantly driving, or biting my nails while my newly permitted son is driving, making lists, and just running around DOING stuff for everybody.

Well, I was visiting the site of a fellow blogger, ThetaMom, and she issued a challenge for all the moms out there: Take a one-hour time-out for yourself within a week, then share the story on your blog. And by time-out, she meant without involving the kids in any way, shape, or form.

Just STOP for an hour? Hmmm…this was a challenge! But thanks to a dear friend of mine, I have a built-in monthly break that I adore.

Several years ago, my buddy, Cheryl, talked me into joining her group of Bunco Babes which met once a month. In case you’re unfamiliar with Bunco, it’s an incredibly mindless dice game that actually serves as a cover for women to get together and talk. Yes, talk! You get to talk to your friends for hours! Uninterrupted by children, homework, housework, cooking, or carpooling. It’s AWESOME! There are three tables of four players each. Players rotate throughout the night, giving each person ample opportunity to talk to everyone there.

Now I’m going to share a little secret about MY Bunco group that I haven’t even told my family. Okay, scoot a little closer to your computer…

We haven’t actually played Bunco in over a year! Don’t tell!

The first few years we started out playing, we really did! But over the past year, we’ve gotten so busy talking and laughing and eating chocolate M & M's and laughing and…well sort of never get around to actually playing the game.

So this past Friday, I got all ready, passed farewell kisses around to my family and sailed out the door at five minutes before 7:00 p.m. like usual, on my way to PLAY Bunco (wink, wink). This time we all brought books to lend, and shared some of our favorites with the group. My night with the Bunco Babes is a highlight of each month. I just love hanging out with those women! Memories of our times together keep me laughing the entire rest of the month as I recall the jokes and conversations of the evening. If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend creating your very own Bunco Babes group as the ultimate stress reliever!

Images by Jono Rotten

Wordless Wednesday

I'm sure I've mentioned my lack of a green thumb before. Well, if anyone recalls my Mother's Day blog about the totally awesome ice-cube orchids I received as a gift, and has a soft spot for anything green and growing, you might want to sit down before viewing this blog post.

Because I'm pretty sure it can't be good to go from this...

to this, in only one day. Seriously, one day!

I Survived Tryouts

For the past several days, I’ve experienced some strange symptoms. Heart thumping erratically. Shallow breathing. Feeling anxious. Yesterday, the symptoms grew more severe as the morning progressed. I couldn’t concentrate on my writing. My stomach was upset, my knees were weak, and if somebody looked closely, they could probably tell that my hands were shaking.

My symptoms peaked, then almost instantly dissipated at 10:36 a.m., as I watched my son and his buddy walking slowly from the high school soccer practice fields. I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the features of his face. He was talking to his friend in his usual animated way, and smiling. I immediately felt the knot in my stomach begin to loosen. As he approached my waiting van, he caught my eye and his grin grew wider. He swung open the door and said, “I made the team!”

FINALLY! I could breathe again.

My son is about to enter his freshman year of high school, and we just experienced high school soccer tryouts. I say “we” even though I’m certain my son had no idea that every single day of those tryouts I was out there on the field with him. I’m always on the field with him.

I’m sure many parents can relate to what I’m saying here, right? We’re on the field, or the court, or the stage with them—our kids.

My daughter has run with the high school cross country team for the past three years. When she (& the other runners) would pass me by at meets, I would clap loudly and shout encouraging words. As I watched their faces reflecting the extreme difficulty of the course, I’d literally have to suppress a ridiculous, almost overwhelming, urge to cry over how hard they were struggling, pushing themselves to run faster. Run harder.

I suspect (hope?!) I’m not alone in this strange phenomenon of “empathy parenting.” It’s not that we’re living vicariously through our children. It’s just that we…care so much. I know that whatever happens, whether they make the team or not, whether they come in first place or last, whether they screw up their lines or not, it’s what’s meant to be. They will have positive and negative experiences throughout their lives. And when bad stuff happens, they’ll eventually get over it. Learn from it. Move on. But when I’m in the moment… Heck, what can I say?

As much as my logical mind knows it’s ridiculous to become so caught up in their stuff, I can’t seem to stop it. All I know is, when they’re out there, I’m out there. But I guess if a parent can’t be their child’s biggest cheerleader, who can, right?

Take a Break

During the week I was home alone, some good friends of mine were camping with their kids about half an hour away, and they invited me to join them. I was hesitant. I’ve never camped as an adult. Growing up, my family camped a lot. But kids get all the fun parts of camping, their main responsibility is to play all day. But adults, I suspected, found it a lot less fun and a lot more work.

Initially I thought I’d just visit for a few hours then head back home. But my friends wanted me to really experience camping as a grownup and encouraged me to stay overnight. So I did. I was pleasantly surprised to find the entire adventure quite relaxing.

And, okay, their campers did have microwaves, potties, showers, running water and a working T.V. But it’s still camping, right? I mean we were at a real campsite and everything.

And admittedly, my friends had done all the meal prep work and cooking, and had already set up their campsites. So my only responsibility was the dog and myself.

But the break away from the responsibilities of the real world was…refreshing. We walked in the woods, played Apples to Apples, and Spoons. (I love that game!) Even when it rained for a bit, we just sat under the retractable awning on one of my friend’s campers and chatted until it stopped. In the evening we had a campfire and made s’mores. We laughed over the fact that one friend and her son were trapped in the public restroom at bedtime by a nocturnal skunk taking an evening stroll. We went to bed only when we got tired, and got up when we awoke naturally. No alarm clocks.

Being away from cell phones, real phones, the computer, and all responsibilities felt really good. Watching my friends’ children, perfectly happy without their X-Boxes, and iPods, just riding their bikes around and playing together in the woods reminded me of simpler times.

It really brought home to me the importance of taking breaks. Real breaks. Not planned vacations with full itineraries of sightseeing and lack of sleep. But honest-to-goodness sit-on-your-butt-doing-nothing breaks. It’s still August, and there’s plenty of summer sunshine left. So go ahead. Get out there, spread a blanket on the grass and take a break. It’s on me.

Image by: Paul.Carroll