Friday, March 31, 2017

Parents of different faiths

Kids and church: how do you teach kids about religion when their parents practice different faiths?One day, I picked my son up from his dad’s church  -- we are members of different faiths -- to take him to practice for his performance team (to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. We think missing some of a three-hour block of church to do this is okay, especially since he’s learning about how to be charitable, and what would Jesus do?)

I asked my son what the lesson was about today and he thrust a piece of paper at me, which said, “My Gospel Standards.”

He told me, “Everyone said that when you drink coffee, it drives out the Holy Spirit.”


“Well, the teacher was asking what drives out the Holy Spirit and this one kid said, “Coffee,” and she said, “Yes.”

“Eh, what do you think about that?”

“I think it’s dumb.”

“Yeah, so do I, actually.”

Technically, the official doctrine says “hot drinks,” so is iced coffee okay? And what’s so bad about it, the caffeine? In that case, why is it okay for members of this faith to drink Coke and Mountain Dew, which I know for a fact they do. I have seen it with my own eyes.

“She also said that when you’re mad at someone it drives out the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that stupid?”

“No, not really. I can understand that. You don’t have room in your heart to feel God’s love when you’re consumed with anger for someone else. If you were feeling God’s love, you would realize that the person you’re mad at is also God’s child, and you might be mad about what they did but be more forgiving towards the person, just like God is forgiving towards all of us.”

We drove wordlessly for a few miles as my son changed his church clothes for his performance team uniform.

God is present in different faiths

I thought about my two-year odyssey into and out of his dad’s church, which resulted in my short marriage to his father. I felt grateful that I had the knowledge that there are many paths to God and that I didn’t have to leave God when I left that church.

It is because of my belief in the many paths to God that I do not feel threatened by other religions. I can go to a Catholic church with my husband and mother in law; I can go to a Unitarian church – growing up Unitarian is what helped me to respect other faiths; I can also go into my son’s dad’s church and feel okay about it. The members there are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I just came to realize I don’t agree with all of their doctrine.

Different faiths are okay

My oldest goes to a Catholic school and he does not participate in the sacrament part of mass. One of his classmates asked him if he was an atheist. He said, “No, I’m just not Catholic.” I talk a lot with my kids about the many paths and how there is no one right way. Maybe I am supposed to believe that – as a lot of religions teach about their own particular faith, i.e., if you’re not ______________ (insert faith), you’re an atheist, or you’re wrong, or you don’t see the whole picture – but I don’t.

I want my boys to know that it’s okay to explore different faiths – to learn about and understand what other people believe and how they worship. Then my boys are free to make up their own minds about their faith and their relationship with God. How can they choose if they have only learned one way?

When my son was resettled, I said, “You know I’ve been drinking coffee again, right?” (I had given it up for a year and a half because I thought I was drinking too much.)

“You have?”

“Yeah. It’s usually decaf but sometimes I add in some regular.” (I make instant coffee at home so this is easy to manage on a cup-by-cup basis.)


“Do you think I’ve driven the Holy Spirit out?”


“Me, neither.”


Do you practice a different religion than your child(ren)'s other parent? How does that work for your family?

xoxox, Carlie

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The ongoing challenge of cooking for the family

I am not a foodie. I have posted a few recipes lately, e.g., egg muffins, not because they're super-creative masterpieces that you wouldn't find anywhere else, but because it's a special thrill for me to find something that works; something that isn't too hard to make. If I see a recipe that has more than five ingredients or calls for a ton of, yeah. It's not happening.

You can never cross cooking off the to-do list. As soon as you're finished, someone is hungry again!Cooking for the family when you're a working mom

Who has time to cook, never mind plan menus or shop for food? For numerous reasons I found myself at the supermarket five times in the past seven days. These five visits were because of shopping in stores that didn't have all the produce I wanted (Wal-Mart) or not having things we were out of on the list (small, convenient, and costly supermarket).

Cooking for the family when you don't want to eat what they eat

I thought creating a weekly menu would be a good idea when the school year started, but doing so promptly caused me to gain weight. I can't eat Man Food, and that is basically what everyone else in my house likes. Monday was Mac 'n' Cheese Night. I had asked one of my friends for her mac 'n' cheese recipe, because one of my boys said I'd never make mac 'n' cheese as well as Mrs. So-and-so, "so don't even try." Yet he loves Mrs. So-and-so's, and I asked for the recipe. I made it three times, but he was "not hungry" every single time. (Actually maybe this belongs in the "don't feel like eating" section below, except for the fact that it's part of the Man Food Menu). I hate wasting food so I wound up eating too much of it because I am usually the only one that east leftovers. My friend did warn me that it was fattening.

Tuesday was chicken night, so that was easy. I tried making baked chicken, crockpot chicken, chicken cooker chicken (I have this nifty pottery thing), and even tried "the other white meant." I don't think the kids like any kind of chicken other than any shape that is breaked. This could mean chicken fries, chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, or chicken strips. I usually end up cooking two and grownups.

Wednesday was pasta night. Then it turned into meatball sub night. I'd make a whole crockpot of meatballs and sauce and we got the point where one boy was eating one meatball sub and then the dogs and I would be eating meatballs for the next several days.

Thursday was taco night. Sometimes it still is, but really only one of my boys is super-excited about tacos. I will join him and use lettuce wraps, but it's a LOT of work.

Friday and Saturday could be pizza and whatever. The kids aren't always with us and sometimes we go out.

Sunday is usually a crockpot thing that no one besides my husband and I eat.

My whole menu planning idea has pretty much fallen apart.

Cooking for the family when they don't all like the same things

I have one boy whose entire food repertoire could possibly be counted on two hands. He likes breaded chicken, french fries/tater tots/smiley fries/the equivalent, grilled cheese sandwiches, squeeze yogurt, ultra sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, blueberry applesauce. That's seven things, so I still have three fingers left over. Of course there are variations. Take crackers for example. He likes Goldfish, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, or saltines. The same goes for potatoes -- the shape doesn't matter so much as long as they have the right amount of crispness on the outside. However, regarding squeeze yogurt and sharp cheddar cheese, only one brand for each. We tried the supermarket brand of sharp cheddar; I had bought a pre-sliced pack because it was the same unit cost as unsliced, and he didn't like the size of the slices. I guess you could say that different flavors of squeeze yogurt = variety, but even that is a bit of a stretch. We have not yet found a type of spoon yogurt that he likes. (God forbid if it has any particles of fruit in it.)

My older two are less selective but still have quirky appetites. I know one of them eats well at school because they have a gourmet menu at his cafeteria. I am not even kidding -- it's probably like most corporate dining experiences. This is the menu for today, as an example.


Breakfast Special: French Toast with Brown Sugar Bananas-$2.25

Specialty Salad: Harvest Chicken Salad-$3.75

 Premium Deli:   Turkey Club Flatbread-$3.95

Entrée: Roasted Pork Loin w/ Potato Cheddar Bake & Applesauce-$4.75

Entrée:  Steak & Cheese Sub with a Side-$4.75

Gluten Free: Steak & Cheese Sub-$4.75

Premium Pizza:  Bourbon Chicken-$2.75

Oh, yeah, the prices are kind of gourmet-ish, too. It adds up fast when he gets drinks, sides, and dessert.

The other eats on a schedule unlike anyone else's. See below.

Cooking for the family when they don't feel like eating

One of my boys does not like to eat between waking up and when he gets home from school, other than a granola bar or two. He then eats a lot when he gets home (like a whole box of cereal) and isn't hungry for dinner. Then he eats again late night. One of my boys works during dinner time on some days. Now that we're in baseball season, dinner time is whenever. Last night it was in the car on the way somewhere. No one wants to -- or even can -- eat at the same time.

I was talking the other day to someone about my corned beef and cabbage dinner and he asked if the kids liked it. I told him they didn't even eat it.

He looked at me puzzled.

"They don't always eat what we eat."

Blank stare.

"We don't always sit together at dinner."

Slight frown.

"It was 9:30 p.m. by the time we sat down and one of them wasn't even home."

I realized it sounded "terrible." We don't have family dinners -- horrors! However, that's the reality of it. We have family time in the morning.

As I conclude this post, I am trying to figure out if I can get to the supermarket this evening (because we're low on cereal). One of the boys has 8:40 p.m. hockey practice, though maybe I can go while he's at practice. It would be an unfamiliar store because the rink is far, far out of town (due to the fact that all of our rinks in town have already been melted), and I'd be putting groceries away after 10 p.m., but it is doable.

Yes, the cooking for the family struggle is real!

How do you handle shopping, menu planning, and cooking? Do you enjoy it?

xoxox, Carlie

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Everything has a way of working out

My 11-year-old son had a splinter in his finger.

He had just come home from playing baseball at his friend’s house where he’d spent several hours. He had ridden his bike the half mile or so.

I was so happy about this because

  • Getting the bike out of the shed where it was for the winter is a springtime thing to do. (Spring is coming – it always does, eventually!)

  • The mere idea that he planned and executed this get-together without my involvement – using the house telephone to call his friend – brought back happy, nostalgic memories of the ’70s when I would have done the same.

I asked him where his bike was and he said, “In the front.”

“You need to put it back in the shed, honey.”

“I’ll put it in the garage.”

“There’s no room with your hockey project in there.” (He’s in the middle of building an indoor/outdoor target practice thing with his dad that involves wood frames and a tarp.) “Unless you want to put your project in the shed…?”

When he returned from the shed, he had the splinter.

“Do you think that’s a splinter, Mom?” He showed me his finger.


“Awwww! Dang!” Immediately he began worrying.

“How do I get this out?”

Not liking my answer about a match, a pin, and minor surgery, he replied, “What happens if we don’t take it out?”

“It will fester and possibly get infected. One way or another it has to come out.”

“Okay! But let me try getting it out first.”

“The pins are in my sewing kit.” I didn’t get up from my desk.

He came back a short while later and announced that he’d removed half of it with tweezers.

“That’s great hon!”

He showed my husband, who asked, “Do you want me to work on it? Go get an alcohol wipe.”

I am sure my son was reluctant, but he let my husband doctor him until he couldn’t take anymore digging.

•don’t obsess •be open to a solution •give it time •make a way“Do you think it will come out by itself?” He paced in front of my desk.

“Hon, you’re obsessing.”

“I know!”

“You can put ice on it and then you won’t feel it being removed. Or, you could go soak your finger in Epsom salts and then put Neosporin and a Band-Aid on it. That will soften the skin and it will be easier to get at. Maybe it will even slide right out…”

He disappeared again and I could hear him rummaging around in the first aid bin that I keep on the stop shelf of the bathroom closet.

Things were quiet for a while, then I heard him playing the piano.

I figured if he could do that, the splinter probably wasn’t too bothersome.

At bedtime, I asked him, “Where’s the Band-Aid. Did you get the splinter out?”

“It wouldn’t stay on.” (I hoped it was in the trash.)

“Maybe you had too much goop under it.”

He frowned, “I really want this to come out…”

“I know how you feel. Why don’t you try again with the Band-Aid. All that digging surely must have made a nice little channel for the splinter. If you soften the skin, it will have a better chance of sliding out on its own. Your body doesn’t want that splinter in there either. Just give it a little time. I am sure it will work its way out.”

There was a period of intense angst when he couldn’t find the tube of Neosporin.

“No, I can’t help you. I have no idea where you left it.”

“No, you’re not dumb or stupid, just think about what you did with it.”

Eventually he found it and re-bandaged his finger.

The next morning at breakfast, I cringed when my husband brought it up. My son, who was still foggy from sleeping and hadn’t remembered the splinter until that moment, rolled his eyes.

After breakfast, he deposited his dishes in the sink and went up to take his usual loooooooooong shower.

Fifteen minutes later, he came back downstairs and announced, beaming, “The splinter is gone!”

“I’m so glad to hear that, hon – What great news! Here’s your lunchbox. You’ve got three minutes to get out the door!”

The moral of this story is, everything has a way of working out when you

  • don’t obsess

  • are open to a solution

  • give it time

  • make a way for it to happen!

xoxox, Carlie

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Smiling Woman

She brightened my day every day on the way to daycare and I could never thank her until years later.2017 Update: This month marks the 13-year anniversary of my re-entry into Corporate America (!). The reason I am updating this story is because The Smiling Woman's husband reached out to me via my professional website to let me know she is retiring after 30 years and that she had a copy of my newsletter in her memory folder. She wanted to thank me for making her day (again).


She made absolutely every day for me during a hard time in my life: when I was commuting to daycare before my commute to the office, as a single mom with three kids five and under.


And now I know her name!

 She was someone I looked forward to seeing every day on the day to daycare.

 Originally published in 2014: This month marks the 10-year anniversary of my re-entry into Corporate America. I had been working at home on a consulting basis and had a couple of regular clients and ad hoc projects, with my kids at a nearby daycare center part-time. But when my favorite client could not renew my contract, I updated my resume and began interviewing.

After nearly two months, I was in very serious negotiations and had a few options. One was a contract position that I’d have to work in the client’s office, one was a full-time job (also in an office), and one was continuing project work at home, because my number had come up in the subsidized child care lottery, months earlier than had been promised. However, if I took either the contract or the full-time job, the compensation would render me ineligible for childcare assistance.

I chose the job because I knew it would be the first step on a path to increasing the depth and breadth of my professional skills, as well as for the financial security. It did not come without a significant re-entry fee, though.

I had to commute to a new daycare seven miles out of town (because it was the only one I could afford: the more convenient one was $50 more per week, and the one we had been using not only operated on a school calendar as opposed to a business calendar, but also would have been unaffordable on a full-time basis), then backtrack the same seven miles before I even started my” real” commute. I exercised school choice and sent my oldest to kindergarten in the town where the daycare was. The morning routine was often rushed and it took an hour and a half to drop the kids off and get to work. I knew I had to leave work by a certain time – noticeably earlier than most, which meant I often ate lunch at my desk – in order to pick up the kids, or I’d be fined a dollar a minute each. I was never late, but I was often the last parent there. I hated being so far away from my kids. Early on, the benefits of the job did not outweigh the cost.

There was a high-school crossing guard that I used to pass every morning to and from daycare, which was just a bit further west than the school. Often times on my way there I’d be tense and cranky, clutching the steering wheel as if it were a life preserver, because it was such an ordeal to get everyone out the door on time.

But then there was the crossing guard, “The Smiling Woman,” as I used to call her to the boys. She always appeared so cheerful, waving and signaling at a very busy intersection in front of the school where there is also a shopping plaza, a McDonald’s, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and a pizza place. As we passed her, my tension dissipated and I could lean back in the driver’s seat and breathe again. I knew I needed to emulate her attitude to encourage the boys to be happy about arriving for another full day of daycare.

They weren’t. They’d run to the window to watch me leave, crying, as the teacher stooped over next to them telling them, “wave bye bye to Mommy!” with the same bright, encouraging tone that I had used to get them out of the car and in the door. After a few weeks, they’d just watch, resigned. Ultimately, they would wave goodbye, willingly, cheerfully, on their own, but until we got through that transition, I often cried during the first half of my commute thinking about their pinched up little faces, attempting stoicism.

But not if The Smiling Woman was still directing traffic. First of all, that meant I wasn’t going to be late for work, and second, when someone is smiling and waving as much as she was, it’s contagious. It was next to impossible for me to feel tense or sad.

After a couple of years, the Bigs were older and both attending our local elementary school and after-school program because I had secured a telecommuting position. My youngest still went to the same daycare and it worked fine for him since it was all he’d ever known, but because we didn’t have to get there so early, we didn’t see The Smiling Woman and I didn’t think much about her anymore.

Until one day, I decided to stop in at the supermarket after morning daycare drop off, and there she was, in the soup aisle! Immediately, I thought I should tell her how much her presence meant to me years before. Then I thought, “no, that’s weird – she’ll think I’m nuts.” I talked myself in and out of approaching her as I stalked her through the cracker aisle, the bread aisle, the frozen foods area, and then finally, in the dairy aisle, right near the cottage cheese – which is somewhere between the eggs and orange juice – I said, “Excuse me” and touched her arm.

She turned and smiled at me, the same smile I saw every day for nearly two years, and all the feelings of years before rushed back to me: my worry, my stress, and my sadness, which had ultimately fueled my determination, my security, and my joy. My eyes welled up with tears as I remembered exactly how hard that phase of my life had been (though at the time, I hadn’t thought much of it at all, knowing that regardless of how I felt about anything, the show must go on).

“Yes?” she said, blinking as she no doubt tried to place me.

“I used to drive by you every morning and I just wanted to tell you how much it meant to me to see your smiling face when I was commuting. You were always out in the middle of the road no matter what the weather and it must have been cold and yucky when slush splashed on you because people drove by in a hurry and you were always waving and smiling anyway. You just made me feel better about things, about everything, and I wanted to thank you.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for telling me that – you really made my day!”

She apparently she did not think it was weird or that I was nuts, because we conversed for a bit as people wheeled their carts around mine, which was parked next to a little table with a display of donuts. Before I moved on to pick out milk and yogurt, we hugged.

I’ve never seen her since and never learned her name, but I will never forget her.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...